Columbia County lost a dedicated firefighter and public servant Sunday with the death of Thomas Dale "Tommy" McPherson.
McPherson, who was named a Columbia County deputy coroner in November, died unexpectedly Sunday evening from a heart attack brought on by hypertension, Coroner Vernon Collins said after a Monday autopsy.
McPherson, 50, of Evans, was laid to rest, with a firefighter's honors Thursday in Westover Memorial Park.
The Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue firefighter known to his fellow firefighters as "McFee," began volunteering for the department in high school and was stationed at Engine Company 16 in Leah.
Department Chief Doug Cooper said he and McPherson were hired into the department about the same time and worked together until McPherson left to become an EMT "so he could run more red lights and sirens."
He returned to the department in May and again worked at Engine Company 16.
"Tommy, he was more than a firefighter," Cooper said. "All the firefighters are my friends and they are a part of my family. It was different with Tommy. Me and Tommy went to school together, went drinking together and got into stuff that we shouldn't get into, all that kind of stuff ... We were buddies."
The Augusta native often served at the Leah station alone because Cooper said he was an experienced firefighter with a good head on his shoulders.
McPherson, a 1974 Evans High School graduate, served as an embalmer for Thomas L. King Funeral Home and eventually started his own ambulance service, Mobile One out of Columbia, S.C. McPherson's wife, Rhonda, said he recently sold the business so he could be closer to his family and young son, Jake, 19 months, and stepdaughter, Caroline, 13.
McPherson's wife said she knew how much he loved her because of the little things he would do such as fill her car up with gas or wait for her to come home with the garage door open on a rainy day.
She said she remembered times the couple discussed how lucky they were to have each other.
"He was my soulmate and my best friend," she said. "We were actually trying to have another baby. We were just so very happy."
Collins said it'll be hard to replace McPherson, who took the deputy coroner position after the death of Tommy King. He said McPherson performed the job as though he'd been doing it forever.
"I'm going to miss him," Collins said. "He adapted to the coroner's office faster than I thought he would. He just knew how to talk to families."
McPherson is survived by his wife; sons Ben McPherson and Jake McPherson; a stepdaughter, Caroline Bost; his mother, Anne Marie McPherson; three sisters; his father and mother-in-law, Harry and Evelyn Madden; an aunt; an uncle; and two cousins.
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