Members of the Martinez Fire Department's honor guard carry the casket of Richard Costello, former Leah Fire Department chief, into St. Teresa of Avila Church for the funeral.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
From Davis Road to Pleasant Home Road, Richard E. "Dick" Costello was remembered Wednesday in fitting form - a funeral procession complete with a fire truck.
Costello, 64, who was the chief of the Leah Fire Department from 1993 to 2002, died July 25, leaving behind a legacy of fire safety in Leah and many friends throughout Columbia County.
"This is what he wanted," said James Champion, assistant chief of the Martinez Fire Department, referring to the procession and the funeral service. "Somebody with that many years in the fire service deserves a send off."
Champion worked with Costello at the Martinez Fire Department in the 1970s.
A Martinez Fire Department truck transported Costello's flag-draped casket to the funeral at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church from Poteet Funeral Home on Davis Road. Members of the Martinez Fire Department Honor Guard stood on the back of the truck and served as pallbearers.
A solemn crowd, including his family and several rows of uniformed firemen, were gathered in the church to say a last goodbye to a fallen brother. All watched Costello's granddaughters gently place a plaque and his Leah Volunteer Fire Department helmet and goggles next to the casket.
Amazing Grace, flowing from the Martinez Fire Department's bagpiper, led Costello's casket and his family out of the church.
As Costello's last call, the honor guard slid his casket back atop the fire engine as the department bell rang out three sets of five, which honors fallen firefighters, said Martinez Capt. Dino Cesarini.
Costellos's family comforted each other as one last fire engine siren sounded until it faded into silence.
Those who knew Costello said the service was not only for a volunteer chief but also for a friend to many.
"I've known him quite a few years," said David Butler, deputy administrator for the Martinez Fire Department. "He just really was a nice guy."
Thomas McFarland, chief of the North Columbia Fire Department, which incorporated Appling, Leah and Winfield fire departments and became officially established in January, also had fond memories of Costello.
"He donated literally thousands of hours to fire service in Columbia County," he said, noting that Costello stayed a volunteer his entire career. 'It's going to be a great loss to the county."
Costello was credited with helping in the establishment of the fire department in Leah.
"He was an asset to getting that fire department started up there (Leah)," said Martinez Fire Chief Doug Cooper, adding that Costello was known as an easy going person who loved to cook barbecue.
Among other accomplishments credited to Costello was the establishment of dry hydrants at ponds in Leah. Those hydrants pumped water from the ponds in cases of fire emergencies, Cooper said.
Butler said Costello helped lower the Insurance Services Office rating for Leah as well.
"He did an awful lot for the department," he said.
But Costello's legacy wasn't just seen in the fire house. He was a family man, too, being survived by four sons and his wife, Annette T. Costello. It was his strong conviction to fight fires and help others that attracted two of his sons into the same line of work.
Richard E. Costello II works for the Martinez Fire Department's Engine Company No. 3 on Furys Ferry Road. Nick Costello also works for the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department. Costello's two other sons are Tony Costello, an electrician, and Frank Costello, a lab technician.
"He was a great dad, a great man and a loving husband," said Richard about his father. "He was very straightforward."
And above all else, firefighting was in his blood.
"It's just something he always enjoyed and had a good time at," Richard said.
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