The pews of the church quickly filled with a sea of blue – firefighters, who came to say goodbye to a brother, friend, and mentor. On Friday, hundreds attended a memorial service at the Denver First Church of the Nazarene for South Metro Fire Rescue engineer, Michael Freeman. Last Sunday, Freeman died after a two-month battle with a brain tumor. He was the longest-serving firefighter at South Metro.
“South Metro has lost an icon and our community has lost a hero,” South Metro Fire Chief, Bob Baker, told the crowd inside the church. “Mike loved the job. He loved our citizens. He loved the community.”
Colleagues remembered Freeman or “Free,” as many called him, as one who marched to the beat of his own drum.
“I can remember that beat, on many occasions, not being in concert with many of his officers or chiefs,” said Freeman’s friend, Captain Doug Bloomquist.
While he may have been a free spirit, Freeman always had an open ear and a shoulder for a fellow firefighter to lean on.
An American Flag waving proudly above a firehouse one moment might be presented to a grieving family the next. We miss you Engineer Freeman. pic.twitter.com/blgS8HdHvm— SouthMetroFireRescue (@SouthMetroPIO) July 22, 2017
“A lot of you have said Mike was peer support before there was peer support,” Captain Dan Stutz said. “Mike was simply the most understanding, patient compassionate and caring person I’ve ever known.”
Freeman started his career 43 years ago, at the Cherry Hills Village Fire Department. He became one of the first paramedics in the state of Colorado. He spent 33 years working for South Metro Fire Rescue and was last assigned to Engine 33 in Centennial.
“I know my dad will forever ride on, forever watch over all of us,” said Freeman’s daughter, Aimee Dunn. “And if there’s fire’s in heaven I know he’s putting them out.”
At the end of Friday’s service, a bell tolled to signify one final alarm. A dispatcher made the call over the radio and his voice filled the church.
“Engineer Freeman, you have answered your final alarm as our most senior firefighter,” the dispatcher said. “Rest in peace, Mike. We have it from here.”
Freeman’s casket was carried out of the church as firefighters stood in formation beside Engine 33, the rig Freeman drove for South Metro Fire. Firefighters lifted the casket onto the top of the engine.
Surrounded by a sea of blue, Engineer Michael Freeman could finally rest on his last ride. A procession left of dozens of fire trucks and law enforcement vehicles left the church.
Freeman was laid to rest at Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary and Cemetery. Freeman’s daughter, Aimee Dunn, said the cemetery provided funeral services at no cost to her family.
“We could never pay them back for their services and kindness that they expressed towards our family,” Dunn told 9NEWS.