HOPE VALLEY — Fred Stanley, who served for 51 years as chief of the Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire Department, died at his home early Wednesday. He was 83.
Stanley joined the department when he was 16 and retired in 2015. He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, most recently in November, when the fire station on Main Street in Hope Valley was renamed in his honor as the Frederick A. Stanley Fire Headquarters.
Stanley is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sylvia, a daughter, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, and a son, Loren.
Sylvia Stanley said she was awakened by a sense that something wasn’t right, just before her husband's death at 2:15 a.m.
“I woke up out of a sound sleep and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get dressed,’” she said. “…I knew it was something with Fred, so I looked over and he was breathing very shallowly, but he was still breathing, and I went and got dressed and checked him again and he stopped, right there.”
Stanley was a three-time president of the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs. Richard A. Susi, retired chief of the Cumberland Hill Fire Department and the association's executive director, said Stanley was and will always be a legend in Rhode Island fire services.
During one of his final visits with Stanley, Susi had a chance to show off several memorial bricks, purchased by residents of the state, that will be included in the Rhode Island Firefighters Memorial at the state's fire training academy in Exeter.
Susi recalled that Stanley, who remained active in working with state agencies until early this year, stood up when the brick program was announced and put his support behind the program. Susi said Stanley challenged every retired chief to buy a brick and then bought one himself.
This was just one of the many ways that Stanley proved himself a great leader, Susi said.
"Chief Stanley was truly a man who led by example," said Susi, who will deliver a eulogy at Stanley's funeral. "He worked to get the state fire academy in place; he was instrumental in helping establish the state's fire marshal's office; he helped establish Hazmat protocols and helped put teams in place — those are all huge accomplishments."
Sylvia Stanley said Fred's passion for firefighting began when he was a boy.
“Fred’s grandfather was the first fire chief and he and a group of men established the fire company and they built the truck in Grandpa’s garage and Fred was 7 years old,” Sylvia Stanley said. “He went on the first call with them and the only time he was not in the fire company was when he went into the Marines for three years.”
Throughout his tenure, Stanley sought to equip his department with the latest in firefighting apparatus and safety gear, and provided a comprehensive training program. He was also largely responsible for the creation of the regional Hazmat team in 1990, which currently serves all of Washington County and West Greenwich.
Sylvia Stanley said that as much as he loved his work, Fred had made an effort to stay away from the fire station after he retired so the new chief, Justin Lee, could take over.
“He decided not to go to the station for at least six months unless Justin called him, because he wanted the new chief to be able to make his own stamp on the fire station. He and Justin had gotten along like two brothers,” she said.
Lee is assisting the family with the visitation and funeral, both of which will take place Sunday at the Chariho Middle School auditorium to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd.
In addition to Justin Lee, the Honor Guard will include current and retired chiefs Scott Barber of the Richmond-Carolina Fire District, Scott Kettelle of the North Kingstown Fire Department, Mike Frink, former chief of the Dunn’s Corners Fire Department, Stuart Pearson, former chief of the Harmony Fire Department, and Kingston Fire Chief Nate Barrington. Visitation will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and the funeral, officiated by Hope Valley Funeral Chaplain Chip Northrup, will begin at 2 p.m.
Roeleveld said her father had regretted not being able to thank all the people who had visited and sent cards and letters of support.
“I’m sure my dad would want everyone to know how much he’s appreciated all their care and visits,” she said. “He was a big thank you note-writer and in the last new months, it just bothered him so much that his hand was shaking so much that he couldn’t write his personal notes, so I’m sure he’d want everybody to know how much he appreciated everything they did for him and all the visits.”