Joe Dupee: You Only Know Him Now

Saturday, March 08, 2008 |

Yesterday's tragedy in Salisbury reminds us that on any given day, there is heartache in an American firehouse. In the case of that small North Carolina city, it had been 37 years since one of their finest had laid down his life in the service of others. His name was Joe Jenkins, and for many in Rowan County, he was less than a memory.

Ten years ago today in Los Angeles, another Firefighter named "Joe" drove quietly from his home in the pre-dawn darkness to begin a tour of duty that would prove to be his last.

In Los Angeles, it had been 14 years - the longest span at the LAFD without a line of duty death, when on March 8, 1998, Captain Joseph Dupee answered his last alarm.

"You Only Know Him Now" published in the book, "The Heart Behind The Hero" Written March 12, 1998 by Firefighter Jon McDuffie, in loving memory of Joseph Charles Dupee...

We provide a faceless, nameless service to a community that rarely knows how much they need us. We are a myriad of thousands, each with our own personalities, families and troubles. A band of anonymous heroes that subordinates ego and self-interest to serve a populace that only knows that we will be there when they call. We get paid for what we are able to do, on the occasions when we are called to do it.

This week, one of us got a name, a face, a rank, a family, a life beyond a badge. His life is now recognized, only because it was sacrificed. He gave his life defending the property of a person he did not know, in a City that did not know him.

His name is Joseph Dupee.

I knew him before you and will remember him long after his name wanes in your short-term memory. Ten mornings a month, Joe rose before the sun, kissed his sleeping family goodbye, and made the drive to his second home. He exercised, he trained himself and his crew, he laughed, he sulked, and he handled tedious projects. He read his Bible and spoke about it with others. He shared his opinions at the kitchen table with his brothers and sisters who drank thousands of cups of bad coffee with him, all the while attempting to solve the problems of the world. And then he would wait -- for the calls where he sometimes worked harder than you can imagine.

Some of his work days were spent waiting. Some days his City did not need him as much as other days, but still, he waited.

If you needed Joe for small things - a broken water pipe, a child locked in a car, a pot of beans that cooked just a bit too long - he responded to your call.

Other times, when you needed him for life threatening emergencies - to rescue you from natural and man made disasters, from fire, from accidents, from illness, from yourselves – he responded to your call.

You never doubted that Joe would be there for you. You never knew his name and he never asked you to justify your need. He served you because he wanted to help, and he loved to help you. You could have stopped giving him pay raises, repairing his station, hiring more firefighters, and he would still be waiting to answer your call.

Joe loved his family, his God, and his country. He was an opinionated prankster who loved to talk, could not cook, and drove too fast behind the wheel of a fire engine. He was a good fire ground officer who worked aggressively at incidents and diligently at his post. He was on my platoon for three years -- he will be my brother always.

But you did not know him then. You only know him now.

Choose to think of him as a hero in death and I will tell you that he was a hero in life. Use Joe's memory for sadness, and I will use it to comfort his family and my brothers and sisters that must continue to wait. Continue pouring out sympathy until it becomes a faint trickle and I will still be here waiting for the next call.

I provide a faceless, nameless service to a community that rarely knows how much they need me. If I am called from a sound sleep to sacrifice my life attempting to save the life or property of someone I do not know, I will do so without regret.

Joe did it. Why wouldn't I?

Thank you for remembering Joe Dupee and others like him...

We offer a respectful tip o' the helmet to the Puget Sound FOOLS for including our fallen LAFD Brothers Ben Pinel, Joe Dupee, Lane Kemper, and Sister Jaime Foster in their video above.

To learn more about the many Los Angeles Firefighters who have laid down their lives in the line of duty, please visit the LAFD Museum and Memorial or click:

Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department


Anonymous said...

Joe was a very kind man and his lost will not be forgotten.



LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 10:20 (not posted),

We do understand that Joe's personal life and family story extend well beyond his time with the LAFD.

While personal challenges are important to share, we sadly can't include everything you offered here.

We welcome you however, to create your own blog (free of charge) to share your personal story.

Thanks for remembering Joe and the many other members of our vocation who have paid the ultimate price in their service to others.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

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