Tuesday, January 19, 2010

George Blue, Portland Fire Bureau (Ret.)

My last grandfather passed away yesterday, after suffering a stroke several weeks ago.

His house was one of our favorites to visit as kids. The backyard was full of swingsets, teeter-totters, birdbaths, windmills and other decorations. The shed always had bikes and pedal cars ready to go, and other lawn toys such as frisbees, golf clubs and other fun stuff. Inside was an entire room set aside with bunk beds and toys, we could spend hours in there when visiting. Then of course, there was the mysterious attic and basement filled with treasures and curiosities awaiting discovery by adventurers. And the cats, he loved his cats. They had luxury window boxes, a cat tree to play in, and.... if I recall correctly, they weren't even his cats. They technically belonged to a couple of neighbors across the street... community cats, you might say. Anyway, he put up "Cat Crossing" signs and even painted a "Catwalk" on the pavement between the houses.

That place was just magic.

George Blue served with the Portland Fire Bureau (now Portland Fire & Rescue) for a very long time, spending almost all of his career as chauffeur and engineer of Engine 10. When he started there, Engine 10 was still a 1926 American LaFrance 1,000 GPM pumper. Among other family legends is the time he tore the station bay door apart when it started to come down as 10's was heading out on a call. Hey, eventually we all get dinged by bad luck, right?

Grandpa Blue lived to the age of 88, surviving two previous wives who passed before him. I visited him a little over a week ago, and even weakened by the stroke, he quizzed me on pump pressure settings on different hose sizes, compensating for elevations, and I told him about my Engine 17, which tickled him. He had expressed interest in me taking him for a ride when he got out of the hospital. I knew things were not going that well for him, but his passing still came surprisingly earlier than expected.

Details are still in the air, but I fully expect to be driving Engine 17 in his procession.

Hug your family. Make that phone call you've been putting off. All that.


  1. Frank,

    Thanks for letting us into your life and the lives of your loved ones. By your story, your grandfather sounds like an awesome man and a great firefighter. I hope that Engine 17 does make it into his funeral procession and that you honor his legacy with a special day.

    FF Hamilton ECF&R

  2. A 'cat-crosswalk' doesn't surprise me. George was like that. Neat stuff all the time, fun to be around and fun to be with. But a good solid man, true to his word. Portland FD lost a good man when he retired, and his family - all of them - has lost a good man with his passing.

    R.I.P, George.

    Frank 'Jim' Billington