Earlier today, family and loved ones said goodbye to a hero with over six decades of service to his community.

Under a waving American flag in the cold Winter air, a final call was made to a community’s hero. Deputy Chief Bill Melloy of the Sturgis Fire Department was laid to rest after 63 years of service.

In 1951 at the age of 19, Melloy joined the department and would maintain a burning passion for it well into his 80’s.

“When the guys would go out,” said son-in-law Tim Elsey, “he would go in his blue truck to the firehouse and catch phones and relay messages to the other guys.”

“Because at a certain point,” said daughter Leigh Elsey, “they wouldn’t let you. Because of his age, not that he couldn’t do it, but because of his age, they decided, and like what he would say, ‘let the young whippersnappers take over.'”

And with over six decades of service, Deputy Chief Melloy touched a lot of lives, epecially those he served with.

“He taught me a whole lot,” said Retired Chief Norris Sheely. “He’d been in the service for several years before I became a firefighter, and he passed a lot of his knowledge onto me which helped me tremendously.”

For Melloy, just being a firefighter was an honor in itself. It was a lifestyle he cherished. He loved his brothers in red here at home and even those hundreds of miles away.

“The only time I saw that man even tear up was 9/11,” said Tim Elsey. “His fellow firefighters went down, and it tore him up.”

When the community learned of his latest battle of stage IV lymphoma, they rallied around him just as he had done for them for so many years.

“We are one here in this community,” said Leigh Elsey. “And the respect that he has through this community is just overwhelming.”

And now that the last call has sounded in the cold Winter air, a community sends warm thoughts to a man who made an impact and not just an impression.

“He was a fantastic mentor,” said Tim Elsey, “great father, he will be sorely sorely missed. But he will never be forgotten.”

And so, Eyewitness News salutes deputy Chief Bill Melloy for serving his community for 63 years behind the badge.