The memorial service for Chief Don Felton was a special and relatively rare event, not only for Guffey but also for the state of Colorado. That was the message conveyed by Paul Cooke, director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control who represented Governor John Hickenlooper at the service.
But the service, which had many reaching for their handkerchiefs throughout, contained many more elements which rendered it unique.
In addition to Don Felton’s work with the Southern Park County Fire Protection District, he had a long career, first in the marines and then in the Colorado National Guard, serving as a Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer 3. He served a tour with the Guard in Afghanistan. The Felton family therefore wanted an integrated service which honored both of these aspects of Felton’s life.
The fire district worked with the family to prepare for the service which was held Thursday, November 1 at Fire Station #1 in Guffey.
There was an honor guard from Fort Carson which provided a moving and formal presence, carrying the American flag-draped casket to and from the fire station bay.
Another part of the honor guard provided a 21-gun salute outside the fire station followed by taps.
An honor guard member, on bended knee, presented Mrs. Barbara Felton with the flag which covered the coffin after an elaborate flag-folding ceremony. Several members of Chief Felton’s former unit came for the service and spoke at the podium and shared their fond memories.
A shadow box was displayed containing Don Felton’s large array of military decorations and awards.
In recognition of Don Felton’s service as a firefighter, wildland fire engine boss, and fire chief, members of several adjoining fire districts attended the ceremony, many of them in their class A uniforms with crisp white uniform caps.
Representatives from the Fallen Firefighters Foundation attended and met with the family.
Barbara Felton was presented a Colorado flag which had flown over the state capital building on October 31.
Paul Cooke read a letter from the Governor. . Several personal tributes to Chief Felton were delivered from the podium. There were several elements of the Fallen Firefighter Ceremony performed including the last call from dispatch, the ringing of the bell, and the playing of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes by bagpiper and Park County Reserve Deputy
Caoimhin Connell. A table was laid with fine china, a slice of lemon, salt and a wine glass and SPCFPD Chaplain Rev. Bill Harper explained the significance of these items as part of the Fallen Firefighter Ceremony.
The culminating procession of fire trucks and emergency vehicles through Guffey was another tradition observed.
Behind the hearse the Chief’s truck which Don drove on the job was driven without lights, followed by all the other vehicles, silent but with headlights and emergency lights flashing, creating a stunning display of respect for a man who devoted many of the last years of his life to the public safety of his community.
It is often said that services such as these are of no use to those whom we honor. They do, however, serve an important role for the living who are left behind. In these rituals we hopefully find peace, closure and learn things about this person we have laughed with, loved and worked beside which that person may never have shared.
We meet so many people and share small portions of their lives, traveling with them between mileposts, but never seeing that person’s whole journey.
That is what those who attended Chief Don Felton’s memorial service received: a look at the life’s journey of a man who touched the lives of many, many people in ways they will never forget.