Campus News

Bethel College honors fallen firefighter

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Bethel College opened its doors to the community by hosting funeral services for a fallen volunteer firefighter from New Carlisle, Ind. “This is not the first time we’ve held funeral services for fallen officers,” said Director of Conference Services Lisa Greco. “We have become the go-to place for things like this.”
An estimated 850 public service workers attended the memorial service in honor of fallen firefighter Jamie Middleton.
An estimated 850 public service workers attended the memorial service in honor of fallen firefighter Jamie Middleton.
Greco said that hosting the service was "a good opportunity to serve our community." The viewing for New Carlisle assistant fire chief Jamie Middlebrook was held at Bethel College on Sunday, Aug. 10, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Middlebrook died in the line of duty on Tuesday night, Aug. 5 while battling a large fire near the St. Joseph/LaPorte County Line. The fire, which was located at K-Fex Excavating & Trucking in New Carlisle, IN, caused the roof of the building to collapse, breaking Middlebrook’s neck. The Bethel Beacon spoke with Joe Hamer, chairman of the Indiana Critical Incident/Memorial Committee, about the funeral arrangements. “Bethel has assisted our team with line of duty funerals in the past,” said Hamer. “So this is not the first time that Bethel has stepped up to the plate.” Hamer expressed that working with Bethel had been a positive experience. “We felt very comfortable coming here because we do already have a good working relationship,” he said. “A lot of times, you’ll go into some place in a situation like this and have to build a working relationship. But I felt really good about doing it (the viewing and funeral service) here because we do already have that relationship.” Hamer said that approximately 700 people attended the viewing on Sunday. The New Carlisle Fire Department released a statement via Facebook Wednesday morning, Aug. 6. “It is with terrible grief that we confirm the loss of one of our brotherhood,” the statement said. “Assistant Chief Jamie Middlebrook lost his life last night. Please remember our department family, as well as his wife, mother and father. RIP Brother.” The funeral service was held on Monday morning, Aug. 11, at 11:00 a.m. in the Everest-Rohrer Chapel/Fine Arts Center. Hamer said approximately 850 public safety workers and 100 family and community members attended the funeral to show their appreciation for Middlebrook’s sacrifice and to join with his loved ones in remembering his life. In addition to serving as a volunteer firefighter for over 20 years, Middlebrook contributed to his community in many ways. According to Mike Tuszynski, one of Middlebrook’s co-volunteers in the New Carlisle Fire Department for the past 11 years, Middlebrook overcame leukemia about 11 years ago and then began working to raise money for leukemia research. “I think that set a fire under him to really just live a full life,” said Tuszynski. Tuszynski also commented that that Middlebrook was “very dedicated” to his family and to the fire department, where he served in the ambulance service, and to all of the fundraising he did to help support leukemia research. “The guy was just full of energy,” said Tuszynski, “and he could be a bit of a bull in a china shop, but in a good way, you know, and that was just how he approached every situation and any real problem.” Tuszynski, who has known Middlebrook well for the past 11 years, said that Middlebrook had been very active in his community. “He just did a lot of things,” said Tuszynski. “He was constantly, constantly on the move. Whether it was just helping out with a local food bank in town or just anybody who really needed something, he was often there.” Tuszynski spoke of Middlebrook’s strong commitment to community service. “If somebody, an organization or a person, if they needed a hand, Jamie was often there, either participating or spearheading the event,” said Tuszynski. “Whether it was adopting a family at Christmastime to help a needy family have a better Christmas, whether it was to help one of the American Legions in South Bend that did the Christmas present drives, or things like that, he was always willing to help.” And after serving the community faithfully for many years, Middlebrook made the ultimate sacrifice. “I think that a person that has given everything he has, at least from an earthly perspective, to the service of his community, I think it’s an example and a challenge,” said Tuszynski. “I think his legacy is going to be, you know, what can you do? And are you going to do it?” Tuszynski said that Middlebrook’s legacy was a challenge to greater service. “We may be doing whatever we are now, but there’s no doubt that we can do more,” said Tuszynski. The surrounding community rallied around Middlebrook’s family, friends, and coworkers following the tragic announcement. “There is no way we could possibly list everyone who has helped,” the department wrote, “from community members bringing food, closing businesses to provide us a place to meet and grieve together, and stopping by to place flowers or sign our memorial board. We are so proud to be members of this community, and know Jamie was as well.” Tuszynski also spoke of his gratitude to Bethel for their support during this time of tragedy. “Bethel has been fantastic, in everything they’ve done for us,” he said. “Not just allowing us to use their facilities, but coordinating so many other things. The visitation Sunday and the funeral on Monday were difficult to be at, from my point of view. But, at the same time, I think it was invaluable because I think it does provide comfort to the family because, even if they can’t have Jamie, it’s demonstrative of, or illustrative, rather, of how much respect other firefighters had for him.” “It was truly a funeral for a hero, and he deserved no less,” said Tuszynski. “I don’t know how we’re going to repay (Bethel College), but we’re certainly going to try to.” Though Middlebrook lost his life, his legacy will live on. “He represented the best in us,” the department wrote, “and not a day will go by that we don't remember him and try our best to make him proud.”
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