A hero’s tribute: Fallen firefighter honoredNovember 15, 2017
By MELODY BRUNSON
Washington Times Herald
MONTGOMERY — Nine hundred plus mourners...210 emergency personnel...more than 50 fire units...dozens of family members and friends, an Honor Guard entourage and bagpipe corps helped honor a local fallen firefighter as his body was carried to its final resting place Tuesday afternoon.
Third generation Montgomery volunteer firefighter Kendall Murphy’s life was remembered as firefighters, police officers and first responders from all across the Midwest came to Daviess County to support and pay their last respects to one of their own.
An estimated 2,700 friends, family and hundreds of firefighters attended the Monday visitation for the 27-year-old man who worked as a German American Insurance personal insurance agent out of German American Bank’s main office in Jasper.
Murphy died Friday night in the line of duty when he was run over by another firefighter at the scene of a minor accident on Old Highway 50. Authorities said Murphy suffered numerous injuries after being struck and was pronounced deceased at the scene by the Daviess County Coroner.
26-year-old Colby Blake of Cannelburg was the one who hit Murphy with his 2006 Dodge Ram truck. Blake was uninjured in the crash; however, after further investigation, was found to be operating while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of .21 percent, police alleged. He is charged with a Level 4 felony count of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death.
Eric Johnson is the executive director of the Supporting Heroes group based in Louisville, Kentucky, which helped organize the Tuesday afternoon tribute to Murphy.
“I think it’s important for the community to recognize that when somebody falls in their service, he didn’t lose his life that night, he gave his life,” Johnson said of Murphy. “He responded to help others. He went into a dangerous environment; he knew the risks. Anytime you respond to a wreck on a roadway, it is a risk. He knowingly, willingly went into harm’s way and he did that on behalf of the community.”
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch delivered a message at the funeral, on behalf of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who ordered flags across the state at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday.
Josh Swartzentruber, associate pastor of Providence Mennonite, where Murphy was an active member, gave the devotions for the service. Pausing often between his tears, he memorialized his longtime friend, using Matthew 22:35-40 when Jesus issued two commandments to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Kendall lived out these commandments the best that anybody could,” Swartzentruber said.
“His life doesn’t end with a period, but with a comma,” he said of his fellow teammate and coach.
Describing Murphy as “hilarious” and with a “very distinctive laugh,” he said, “His laugh was always something that made me laugh.”
A member of the 2007 Barr-Reeve state final team, an assistant coach on the 2015 state championship team and current fifth grade boys coach, Swartzentruber called Murphy a “freak athlete.”
“There’s not one thing he couldn’t do well...ping pong, basketball, baseball, whatever. I can stand up here today and say I never beat Kendall Murphy in anything.”
Barr-Reeve Coach Bryan Hughes told the Times Herald, “I am really proud to have coached and known Kendall. He was the perfect teammate, a really good assistant coach and more importantly, he was a good role model for all our players. He will be greatly missed by everyone in our basketball family.”
‘Honor, integrity and courage’
Fellow first responder Sara Elrod-Ausbrook shared a poem at the memorial service, and encouraged mourners in attendance that their actions and kindness toward others “can forever have an impact.”
In his eulogy, longtime friend John Stoll, called Murphy a “small town poster boy.”
“Honor, integrity and courage...he was respectful and respected,” Stoll said of his former coworker.
Jessica Padgett told the crowd at the funeral about her everlasting love for her fiancé and that she and Kendall had planned to write letters to each other and read them next year at their wedding. With plans now changed, Padgett read her letter at the service, and said in a tearful closing, “I can’t wait to be your wife when I see you in heaven. This is not the end. You will always be the one that was meant for me.”
Kevin Swartzentruber, lead pastor from Murphy’s church, gave the closing remarks at the funeral and graveside, where he encouraged those in attendance to live Godly lives, grab onto faith and have expectant hope.
“Honor Kendall’s life today; represent that faith to everyone you come in contact with,” he told the hundreds gathered.
Rich in symbolism
As a symbol of his bridge to the next life, two aerial trucks with their ladders touching held an American flag west of his hometown on U.S. 50 as a Montgomery fire engine carried Murphy to the Providence Cemetery.
The casket carried by the department’s truck was symbolic of his last ride, responding to his final call.
Fellow Montgomery firefighters participated in a Ringing of the Bell ceremony at the grave and each fellow firefighter placed white carnations in a single row on Murphy’s casket. With three sets of five rings, the bell ringing recalls a time when the fire bell rang to call firefighters to an alarm, and then, again, to signal that the alarm had ended. After the bell ringing, American flags and Murphy’s fireman’s helmet were presented to his family and fiancé.
A final dispatcher’s End of Watch Call at the graveside left many wiping their eyes.
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