‘He loved the city of Derby’

By David Dinell
Derby Informer – July 3, 2018


As Hose 1, a 1916 fire truck, drove away Friday afternoon from Woodlawn United Methodist Church carrying Charles “Chuck” Fields to his final resting place, an onlooker remarked that it was quite a unique sight as it was the first time he had ever seen a casket on a fire truck.

It could easily be said that Fields was also one of a kind, a man with a giant heart who touched the lives of thousands of people during his life journey from Oct. 28, 1925, to June 26, 2018.

While Fields had many endeavors, and was a dedicated family man, it was his work with the Derby Fire Department that will likely be most remembered for years to come.

A convoy from the funeral home to church at mid-day featured a full array of the department’s vehicle inventory – with all lights flashing on Fields’ final call.

Fields was a volunteer firefighter for a lengthy span from 1954 to 2011. The department is now a full-time, paid one, but his countless hours of service laid the firm foundation on which it is built, said those close to him, such as former chief Pat Swaney.

“He was instrumental in doing a lot of things around the department,” Swaney said after Fields’ burial at El Paso Cemetery. “They were the little things, but he made sure things got taken care of. That was important because I didn’t have to worry about them.”

Swaney believes Fields’ interest in firefighting started during his time in the U.S. Navy, where he served in World War II.

“Everyone on a ship was a firefighter,” said Swaney, as any blaze at sea was a severe danger.

U.S. Navy personnel were on hand at his burial, paying their final respects with a rendition of “Taps” and a solemn folding of the American flag over his casket.

Earlier, during the service at Woodlawn, officiant Greg Burge told many stories about Fields’ life and his impact on Derby.

“He loved the city of Derby,” he said of Fields’ adopted town.

Fields, who worked at Boeing, had a way with people and “never met a stranger,” Burge said.

“He knew how to make all feel special,” he said.

Burge also has a stock of what were known as “Chuck-isms,” favorite sayings. Among them: “Them that’s good, let ’em brag,” and “Walk in like you own the place or you’re thinking about buying it.”

The service was a celebration of a life well lived until the age of 92.

When he retired in 2011, there was another celebration – and a lot of remembrance.

Derby, which now is closing in on a population of 25,000, was only 1,300 when Fields moved here in 1955.

A tin shed housed the one fire truck and one of the city’s telephones. The first volunteer to arrive used the phone to find out the location of the fire and wrote it down on a chalkboard, while a second volunteer would start the engine on the truck so they could roll to the fire. Volunteers arriving later could then find out the location by checking the board.

Fields has served as the city’s civil defense director, served on the city council, was municipal judge for a number of years, and worked as a fire inspector and secretary to the department.

At the service, one of his daughters, Carole Moser, talked about her father’s practice of giving.

“He gave to his family and the community he loved,” she said. “This community is so blessed to have had him.”

For Fields, the feeling was mutual.

At his retirement, he said: “I’m going to say ‘thank you’ to Derby, and thank you all. It’s all been worth it.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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