With full department and military honors, Burl Keen was bid farewell by Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue officials Friday.
"He served his country well, and he served his community well," Martinez-Columbia Chief Doug Cooper said. "I learned a lot from this man about the job and I learned a lot about life from this man."
Keen, who died Tuesday at age 86, helped found the Martinez Volunteer Fire Department in the late 1950s, and was one the department's first paid firefighters, retiring as chief in 1985.
He also served his country, fighting in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, before retiring from the Army as a master sergeant.
"He did a lot in building the foundation of this department," Cooper said. "We wouldn't be in the position we're in today were it not for this man.
"He was my boss and he was my friend and I considered him my second daddy," Cooper said.
Department chaplain Richard Thigpen said Keen's legacy will live on for building the department. What started out as a volunteer department became a 24/7 fire service provider to the unincorporated areas of the county.
"The chief's gone, but he will never be forgotten," Thigpen said.
The Rev. Robert Rayner, who officiated, remembered Keen for his deep faith in God and in the men and women under his command.
"His life meant something to this community," Rayner said. "I can't think of anyone who meant more to his community than he did in those days.''
The Rev. Rayner said Keen was proud of the growth of the department and the service it provides.
The chief was transported in his flag-drapped casket atop Engine 5 from Platt's Funeral Home in Evans to Bellevue Memorial Gardens as part of a half-mile procession down Belair and Wrightsboro roads.
Pedestrians and motorists stood at attention with their hands over their hearts as the procession passed.
At the grave site, bagpipers played Amazing Grace and an Army color guard honored Keen with a 21-gun salute.
The service ended as the shrill siren of a distant fire truck slowly dissipated.
Keen is survived by two sons, Gary Lee Keen, of Evans, and Karl Keith Keen, of Jacksboro, Tenn.; two daughters, Janice Sue Wall, of Woodstock, Ga., and Angela Darnell, of Cumming, Ga.; two sisters; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Keen was preceded in death by his wife Macel.
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