GREAT VILLAGE – For those who knew Robert Layton, none would dispute him being described as “dedicated.”
© File photo
Robert Layton, a firefighter with the Great Village and District Fire Brigade for 68 years, passed away on Monday. He was recognized three years ago by the province as being the longest serving active member in any department in Nova Scotia.
That’s one word that was used more than once when friends and colleagues of the late firefighter and businessman remembered him.
“He was just dedicated to the community,” said Dave Lundie, the chief of the Great Village and District Fire Brigade where Layton was a member for almost 70 years.
Layton passed away Monday at the age of 85.
“He worked at all the functions and went to all the fire calls,” said Lundie, who had fought fires next to Layton for 58 years. “When the fire department started out, they were just pumping out of the back of the truck. Robert always worked at (Layton’s General) store and then owned it, and anytime a call came in, he would throw the stuff in the back of his truck and away they went.”
Layton was born in Great Village in 1928 and he dedicated his life to his family and community. Along with being a member of the fire brigade for 68 years, Layton was also active in St. James United Church, serving as an elder, singing in the choir and being one of the most desired pancake makers at church and legion suppers.
Up until his death, he was still an active member of the fire department and was the longest serving active member in a department in the province. He was given the designation three years ago when he reached his 65th anniversary.
“I’ll miss him not being there at the functions more than anything,” Lundie added. “He was always there and a lot of times, he would drive one of our trucks to our calls.
“At times he was humorous and he always had a smile on his face.”
Clair Peers, who runs the Onslow Trading Company in Great Village, had known Layton for about 15 years through both the Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigade of which Peers is a member, but also through the antique shops in the village.
“I saw him all the time,” Peers said. “He and his wife had a regular routine where they would walk by here to the post office on a daily basis.”
Peers said Layton was a “well respected” person to anyone who knew him.
“He was a person respected as far as his word. If he gave his word, he was good for it. People had a lot of respect for him. He believed in his community and he set the standard for who you’d like to follow. He knew it was important to give something back to the community.”
Peers said Layton’s wife of 59 years, Meredith, was the same way and that both of them went above and beyond the call of duty in the community.
He said he’ll remember Layton’s dedication, including his doing whatever he could at any fire calls he responded to.
“I would see Robert’s truck go by and he would always be the first one at the station,” said Peers. “That’s just the way his mind worked. I’ll miss his dedication to the community and his cheerful attitude to life. He will certainly be missed in the village.”
Having known Layton since 1993, Larry Kinsman said Layton was a “good fellow” to work with.
“Very, very dedicated to the brigade. There was a real effort he put into it,” said the fire brigade’s deputy chief. “He was quite the member of the community, but he and his wife. He was very easy-going and an all-around nice person. You couldn’t ask for anyone nicer.”
Kinsman said Layton’s dedicateion has served as an inspiration to many in the community, including some members of the brigade.
For almost 60 years, Walter McElhinney knew Layton through his days of working at the store.
“He was very casual and cordial, and willing to get anything you were looking for, even in later years,” said McElhinney, who is also a member of the Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigade. “I liked him and talked to him quite often.”
Layton received the Queen’s Jubilee Award in 2013, as well as the Maritimer of the Week designation in early 2010 through CTV’s Live at 5.
The late firefighter’s family will receive friends today between 2 and 4 p.m., as well as 6 and 8 p.m., at the St. James United Church in Great Village. His funeral service will be held at the church at 2 p.m. on Saturday with a firefighter tribute.
Firefighters attending the service are asked to wear full dress uniform or station wear if dress wear is not available.