Members of the are saying goodbye to a longtime firefighter today.
Douglas A. Pickett Jr., a former assistant chief who was with the company for more than two decades, unexpectedly died on Saturday. He was 46.
“He was a good man,” said Rodney Kniess, financial secretary at the Harmony fire company. “He was very devoted to his family.”
Married to Sue Pickett and a father to two sons, Pickett, of Harmony, joined the fire company on May 20, 1991. He was a carpenter with the Local #922 Carpenters Union and was serving as the union’s vice-president when he died, according to his obituary from the Boylan Funeral Home in Zelienople. He also was a member of the and an avid hunter.
Paul Reynolds, a firefighter at the Harmony fire company and a fellow hunter, said he and Pickett had taken several trips around Pennsylvania and Colorado to hunt deer and elk.
“We were planning on going out this year,” he said.
He added Pickett was a well-known face in the community. When his son, Doug Pickett III, joined the company more than fours year ago, Pickett helped start Harmony’s junior firefighter program. Reynolds described Pickett as no-nonsense kind of guy who was stern, but who also had a fun side.
“He expected you to do your job and know what you’re doing at the fire company and at the carpenter’s union as well,” he said. “Everyone looked up to him and respected him and learned from him.”
Pickett served as the company’s assistant chief until last year, when he gave up the position to spend more time with his family and his work, Kniess said. Although he no longer held an office, Kniess said Pickett remained heavily involved with the company.
“He was a very good interior attack man. He was very knowledgeable of fire service,” Kniess said. “He did a lot of instructing here when he wasn’t in office.”
Since Pickett’s death, firefighters have rallied around Pickett’s family. Former fire chief Tim Sapienza, who is particularly close with the Picketts, has been helping the family make funeral arrangements.
"They’re struggling, too," Sapienza said of Pickett's family. "Everyone is pitching in and helping. We’ll get them through it. They have a lot of friends and a lot of support."
Sapienza, who was fire chief for 32 years, added Pickett was one of the organization's most safety-oriented volunteers. His death is a huge loss for the company, he said.
"When Doug joined, he was fireman, but he became a friend and a brother," Sapienza said.
Viewings for Pickett will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. today at the The funeral service is at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the n Zelienople.
Kniess said the Harmony Company’s fire trucks, which will be draped in black ribbons, would lead the funeral procession from the church to Grace Church Cemetery in Harmony.
Aerial fire trucks from the Cranberry and Zelienople fire companies also will participate in the procession and will fly an American flag in Pickett’s honor. Although he did not know Pickett, Bruce Hezlep, president of the said they were united by firefighting.
"The firefighter fraternity is a tight and strong group regardless of what stations we belong to, and when we lose a brother we all do whatever we can to support those left behind, even if we do not know the firefighter personally," he said.
Kniess said volunteers would hold a firemen’s service at the funeral home and do a “Last Call” service at the gravesite. For the Last Call, Kniess said Butler County Control would set off the volunteers’ pagers and make an announcement that a firefighter no longer is in service.
“It’s a respect thing,” he said.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Pickett’s honor to the Harmony Volunteer Fire Company, 543 Main Street, Harmony, PA 16037 or the Park United Presbyterian Church, 115 E. Grandview Avenue, Zelienople, PA 16063.
On behalf of Patch, we send our condolences to the Pickett family. We welcome the community to show support or share a special memory of Doug Pickett in the comments section.