Firefighter Rushes To Save Elderly Man, Then Learns His Identity


Surprising Calls


Fire fighter crews don’t only extinguish fires they also provide immediate medical assistance to those in need. Douglas Marks was one of those brave individuals who has dedicated his life to helping others. On one such trip to the Marks’ home in July 2014, the firefighters would learn something amazing about the old man’s true identity.

Calling Often


Residents of Decatur, Georgia, Douglas and Maxine lived in a dilapidated house that required some urgent repairs. The elderly couple were under immense financial pressure. It was quite a distressing time for the husband and wife.

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Distressing Time


The 82-year-old had suffered numerous strokes, and had also been diagnosed with dementia and emphysema. As a result, his wife made frequent calls to the local fire station when her ill husband required medical assistance. 
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Growing Fire Department


The department’s first functional station was located on North Decatur Road, but it took 12 years before the second station, in nearby Brookhaven, Georgia would be declared operational. By the mid-1950s, however, DeKalb County boasted no fewer than nine fire stations, with that number eventually rising to 26 today.

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Firemen Rush To The Scene


DeKalb County’s Fire Station Nine received Maxine’s desperate calls, sending out firefighters several times to help her husband. “I don’t know how many firemen have been in my house,” she told Fox 5 Atlanta News in July 2014. Each time, Douglas was offered immediate medical aid, with his concerned wife looking on.

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Who Was This Man?


Despite their frequent trips to the home of the elderly couple, the firefighters knew little of Douglas’s true identity. Indeed, while a warm and friendly rapport was building between the man and the local firefighters, the DeKalb County workers weren’t aware of who Douglas actually was.

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It Would All Change


One particular conversation with Maxine would soon change their image of the ill old man. They were about to discover a new and startling piece of information.

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As It Turned Out…


Douglas was a former fireman of DeKalb County’s Fire Station Nine, earning the rank of lieutenant. He arrived at the station back in 1960 and became their 38th crew member, while he was also the first paramedic to be employed by the county. For 25 long years, Douglas had dedicated his days to fighting fires and saving lives.

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Learning The News


After learning about his former career, the firefighters formed an even stronger bond with the couple. “Once we found out that he worked for DeKalb, naturally we were drawn in to find out more about him,” firefighter David McBrayer told Fox 5 in July 2014.

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More News


Yet there was more to Douglas’s amazing story, they would learn some more information about the elderly gentleman that would surprise them all…

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Strong Bond


It was soon discovered that Douglas was the oldest living firefighter from DeKalb County at 82 years of age. “Even though we didn’t work with Mr. Marks, we have that bond with him, if that makes sense,” Captain Shane Jones told Fox 5 Atlanta. “We know what he did because we’re now doing the same thing.”

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Respect


The fire fighters immediately felt compelled to further help the elderly man. Once they discovered his legacy and years of service, they wanted to do more for the man, to improve his dire situation.

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Blossoming Friendship


As their friendship continued to blossom, the firefighters soon noticed the horrific state of Douglas’ home, they would soon become aware that the couple did not have the finances needed to make the extensive repairs to the crumbling house. With the 82-year-old confined to a wheelchair, the DeKalb County employees decided they would lend a helping hand.

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Chipping In To Help


On their rare days off, the firefighters returned to Douglas and Maxine’s house, determined to fix the home and make the repairs themselves. The compassionate crew built a new deck just outside the property, as well as a wheelchair ramp for the former DeKalb County firefighter.

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Quite Worried


“We were worried about [Maxine] falling,” Captain Jones told WSB-TV in July 2014. “It was at a pretty steep angle,” he said of the home’s ramp. With that in mind, firemen got to work on the deck, but it proved to be a long and arduous job that required hours of manual labor.

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Taxing Job


“They had me screwing deck boards down and hauling lumber,” firefighter McBrayer recalled to Fox 5 Atlanta after completing the ambitious job. “I think we spent about ten hours that day [working on the house].” Despite putting in all that work, the firefighters wanted to do more.

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Faced A Huge Obstacle


The couple’s roof also required major repairs, while new flooring and insulation also needed to be installed. Unfortunately, the DeKalb County firemen soon faced a financial obstacle with costs of the extensive repairs beginning to mount up.

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Strained Funding


According to Captain Jones, they had all the manpower they needed to complete the job but the financial situation was becoming too much for the volunteers to handle.

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Had To Think What To Do


The fire department soon decided to turn to the public for aid. When people learned of Maxine and Douglas’s hardship, they soon began receiving donations from members of the local community.

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Didn’t Give Up On Him


Despite the financial hurdles issues, Captain Jones was determined to help the husband and wife. The firefighters believed the local community was indebted to the 82-year-old out for his incredibly long service.

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Tendency To Stick Together


“Firemen have a tendency to stick together,” he told WSB-TV. “So for [Douglas] to be here for 25 years, and give 25 years of his life here, we wanted to give a little something back to him.”

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Hard Work Didn’t Go Unnoticed


The firefighters’ efforts didn’t go unrewarded by thankful Maxine, who showed her gratitude once the deck and wheelchair ramp was completed. “I cooked corn, green beans, collards, sweet potatoes, macaroni cheese [for them],” she recalled to Fox 5 Atlanta.

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Didn’t End There


Maxine’s heartfelt appreciation didn’t end there, though, as she also personally thanked each of the firefighters for their hours of hard work on her house.

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Like Family


“Since I know these guys, I hug them [because] they’re like my family too,” she added. In the many years that followed, the couple maintained their close friendship with the workers at Douglas’s old station, finding joy in their new companions.

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A Helping Hand


The firefighters would regularly check in on the sweet couple, in case of emergency, the firefighters were always there. It meant a great deal to the couple, but also to the fire men. It was a way the men could convey their appreciation and respect for the veteran community worker.

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Never Stop Caring


The dedicated crew of men even fixed the couple’s lawn as an additional special surprise for the pair. The gesture made them happier than the firefighters could have ever imagined. This story seemed to have a happy ending, yet the next turn of events would affect the fire fighters.

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Sad Times


Sadly, in the spring of 2016, the heartwarming tale of the unlikely friendship would come to a poignant end. Following his lengthy devastating battle with dementia and emphysema, Douglas passed away, leaving behind his heartbroken wife, Maxine.

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Two Years Have Passed


It has been almost two years since DeKalb County Fire Station Nine had responded to the final call they would receive concerning Douglas. The crew’s chance realization that her husband was the oldest living fireman in the county was the catalyst for an incredible relationship.

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Gone But Not Forgotten


Even though he sadly passed away, the firefighters still check up on Maxine. The crew are adamant to make sure the widow never feels alone or distressed. The firemen and the local community will never forget the years of committed help that Douglas gave them. They even put a plaque up in his honor.