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The late Martin Walsh is being remembered as a kind man, always willing to lend a hand.
KENNETCOOK - The Kennetcook community is mourning the loss of a beloved firefighter who died in the line of duty.
Martin Walsh, the former chief of the Kennetcook Fire Department, collapsed while fighting a structure fire in the Gore area April 11.
Chief Andrew Cluett assumed the role of fire chief in Kennetcook when Walsh retired from the position in April 2012.
He says Walsh was a mentor for firefighters of all ages and experience levels, including those at neighbouring departments.
“I looked up to him immensely,” Cluett confided in an interview April 12.
Walsh devoted “hours upon hours” to the local fire service, Cluett said.
“He’s been instrumental in the development of that fire department over the last 20-some years,” he said.
“He spent the most hours of anyone there and in the village of Kennetcook as well.”
When an alarm sounded, Cluett says Walsh, known widely throughout the community as a mild-mannered man, was calm, cool and collected — but firm when necessary — as he guided his team through whatever emergency situations arose.
“His leadership abilities were second to none,” he said. “He was very good at earning people’s respect.”
Cluett says Walsh was a community-oriented man who was happy to lend a hand in any way he could.
“Martin was dedicated to the fire service and he cared for his firefighters. Martin did a lot for me personally, outside of the department, to help me and I know he’s been there for other people as well,” he said.
“If you needed a favour, Martin would help you. He made time.”
Cluett, a firefighter who transferred to Kennetcook from Rawdon four years ago, says he is proud to say Walsh took him under his wing when he became chief.
“Martin was an infinite resource to me and embraced me, supported me and helped me through my first year.”
Critical incident stress management counseling has been made available to the Kennetcook firefighters who were on the scene when Walsh collapsed in the line of duty, and additional counseling will be provided for all of the firefighters who were at the scene, including those from other departments.
Out of respect for Walsh’s family, Cluett did not speak about what happened in Walsh’s final moments.
Albert Hannah worked as the fire chief in Maitland while Walsh was the chief in Kennetcook. In his mind, Walsh was not simply one of the good ones, he was one of the best.
“I don’t know a better person. I’ve been trying to think but there’s nobody who could come close to Martin,” the Lower Selma resident said in an interview April 12.
“Everybody liked Martin.”
Hannah grew to know Walsh well in the last 18 years. He says he’d know Walsh was out fighting a fire all night long, then see him puttering around the fire station early the following morning.
“He was a walking encyclopedia on firefighting.”
He says Walsh wouldn’t utter a swear word, and he hardly ever raised his voice. He was an honest, hard-working man, loyal husband, dedicated churchgoer and avid supporter of the Nova Scotia Firefighters' Burn Treatment Society — to name a few things.
“He loved the community where he lived and boy was he dedicated to what he done,” Hannah said.
“It’s a big loss for Kennetcook and for the fire service out there — there’ll never be another Martin Walsh, that’s for sure.”
A memorial service for Walsh will be held on April 20 at 2 p.m. at the Hants North High School on Highway 236 in Upper Kennetcook. The service is open to firefighters and the general public.
ASHLEY THOMPSON - HANTS JOURNAL