He was a tireless public servant who loved his job and the people he served. Former Rincon fire chief Raymond Smith was laid to rest earlier this week. He may be gone, but in the minds of residents in Rincon, he will always be their hometown hero.
The lights on Rincon fire trucks are covered in black, honoring the loss of one of their own.
Smith spent 43 years in the department, most of those as chief. But to his guys, he was more than a boss, he was a mentor and a father figure.
"It's the biggest loss since I lost my father," said current fire chief Corey Rahn.
Rahn may have Smith's former title, but he says no one can replace Raymond.
"The community came first for him," said Rahn. "For 43 years the community came first. No matter what he was doing, he'd stop whatever he was doing and serve the community."
"Raymond was always there to help," says Effingham County sheriff Larry McDuffie. "It didn't matter what time night or day, how many people showed up. If Raymond didn't miss the tones, which he rarely did, he was going to be there any way he could."
The pride he took in his job and in his community led many people to fill the cemetery to say goodbye to a man who gave his all right up until the last bell.
Smith wanted a flag to hang above Highway 21 in honor of Deputy Dennis Wright, the deputy killed in a traffic accident while on duty last month.
Smith said that flag would fly even if the 67-year-old had to put it up himself, which he did.
"When we went under that flag that was draped over Highway 21, there he was beside the truck in the wind in the rain in the cold," said McDuffie. "A few days after that, he went into the hospital and never came home from it. He did just what he said. It was the last thing he did, and he did it for somebody else, not for him."
As the last call went out over the radio--"Be advised, 44-11 is out of service and gone home forever"--the tears flowed freely at Smith's funeral. Not just from family members, but from his firefighters. Many needed some help, a hug to get them through this day so they could say goodbye to the man they called Chief.
"He was my chief, he will always be my chief," said Rahn.
Reported by: Andrew Davis, firstname.lastname@example.org