WOOD RIVER JCT. — Firefighters and first responders from throughout New England paid their respects Sunday to former Hope Valley Wyoming Fire Chief, Frederick A. Stanley. They began arriving well before the scheduled visitation and funeral, both of which took place at the Chariho Middle School to accommodate the crowd.
Stanley died at his home early Wednesday at the age of 83. He is survived by Sylvia, his wife of 58 years, his daughter, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, and his son, Loren.
Hope Valley Fire Chaplain Chip Northup, who led the funeral service, said Stanley’s influence had extended far beyond his community and even his country.
“Germany, The Netherlands — So many different places that Fred touched in his long term as as fire chief,” he said. “He was known internationally, but he was known most of all locally as the man, the leader."
Every individual mourn seemed to have a Fred Stanley memory to share. In a tribute to his father, Loren Stanley described him as a truly great man and an inspiration to all first responders.
“You will carry that fire with you that he gave you,” he told the audience. “He’s in your hearts, he’s in your heads, he’s looking over your shoulders, making sure you do it right… I knew a great man. He was my dad.”
Stanley retired in 2015 after serving 51 years as chief and more than six decades in fire services. 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 the Frederick A. Stanley Fire Headquarters in his honor.
Richmond Police Chief Elwood Johnson Jr. served as an honorary pallbearer alongside his father, Elwood Johnson, a member of the board of directors for the Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire District.
“It’s a sad occasion, but it’s also a celebration of a life well-lived, and one that made the community around him safer and better, a complete commitment and dedication to keeping the community safe,” the younger Johnson said. “He was a very special man and you would exhaust yourself trying to recount everything he’s done that’s made the fire department in this area more progressive, better trained, better equipped.”
Stanley was known for his advocacy for the best training and equipment, including securing Rhode Island’s first Jaws of Life rescue equipment, which is used in serious crashes. He was also responsible for the creation of the region's hazardous materials team, or Hazmat team, in 1990. The team currently serves all of Washington County and West Greenwich.
Michael Brancato, assistant chief of the Westerly Ambulance Corps, remembered Stanley for his assistance in modernizing communications for first responders.
“He was instrumental in moving us all close to a better radio system and just communicating better,” he said. “We’re missing a great man.”
Richard Susi, retired fire chief and Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs, also recalled Stanley’s dedication to ensuring that firefighters had the latest equipment and training.
“We’ve lost an icon in the Rhode Island fire service, and he’ll long be remembered as a pioneer in always doing the right thing for firefighters across the country,” he said.
Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire Lt. William Day grew up with Fred Stanley and attended the Richmond School with Sylvia Stanley.
“I go way back, to when Fred was playing baseball with the old Hope Valley baseball team,” he said. “He was a very hard-working, great guy then… I joined the fire department the year that he became chief and I had a long, successful career with him, and, I think, because of him.”
Among the dignitaries at the visitation was U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI.
“I’ve known him for many, many years and have been an extraordinarily strong admirer of his," Cicilline said. "He served 51 years as chief of the department, I don’t think there’s been anyone who had been chief of another department in America for as long, at least that I’m aware of."
State Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-Hopkinton and Westerly, said he had known also Stanley for decades.
“Truly a great man and a visionary when it comes to firefighting services,” he said. “He was able to create a volunteer department that’s as good as any paid department in the state.”
House Minority Leader Blake Filippi, R-Charlestown, described Stanley as a “South County icon.”
“A strong, old-school man who put his community before himself,” he said.
Justin Price, R-Richmond, agreed.
“He’s an icon for South County but he was also such a proponent for the firefighters and getting things done for his people,” he said.
Hopkinton Town Council President Frank Landolfi said he would remember Stanley for his service to the town.
“He was a strong person in the community and worked to serve the community and our town as long as he did, and I’m just happy he was our chief,” he said.
Outside the auditorium, Ashaway Fire Chief Ronnie Sposato and his father Frank, a retired Ashaway chief, were reminiscing about Stanley.
“We had some awfully good times, when we went to chiefs’ conventions and stuff like that,” Frank said. “Fred and I got along real well. I’m going to miss him.”
Ronnie Sposato added, “He did a ton for the fire service, probably the last chief you’re ever going to see that’s going to make 50 years as chief in this kind of climate.”
Richmond Carolina Fire Chief Scott Barber, one of six pallbearers, said Stanley was a rare example of someone who was truly irreplaceable.
“It’s been an adjustment,” he said of Stanley’s passing. “The fire service in the area isn’t the same without him. He really was our leader.”