The men and women of the Pinewald Pioneer Volunteer Fire Company lined up outside the Masterpeter Funeral Home in the December chill to say goodbye to a man who defined the word "volunteer."
They came to say goodbye to Gregory A. DePaul, who founded the fire company back in 1976 and served as chief of the Berkeley Emergency Response Team for two decades.
Current Chief George A. Dohn - DePaul's son-in-law - led the procession into the funeral home. The firefighters stood quietly in their dress blues, waiting their turns to pay their respects. Then two by two, they silently approached his casket, stood at attention, and gave a long, slow salute.
At roughly 8 p.m., a scanner alarm went off.
"Station 20-80, this is a final alarm call for Chief Greg DePaul," a voice crackled over the radio. "You are now with your higher power. You will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Chief Greg DePaul."
Firefighters from the Bayville and Manitou Park fire departments were next, followed by emergency responders from a number of other towns - Toms River, Pine Beach, Ocean Gate, Island Heights, Point Pleasant, Beachwood, Laurence Harbor, Ocean Gate, Putnam Township and many others also passed through the line.
DePaul, 61, died on Sunday of complications from lung cancer. He stepped down only weeks ago as a deputy township emergency management coordinator.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday at St. Barnabas R.C. Church on Woodland Road in Bayville. Family and friends may gather at 8 a.m. in the funeral home, his obituary on Legacy.com states.
DePaul's contributions to Berkeley Township were many.
DePaul served as superintendent of the Berkeley Township Sewerage Authority for 43 years. He was the founder of the Berkeley Township Hazardous Materials Response team and served as chief for 22 years, from 1990 to 2012.
He was the founding vice-president, past fire chief, and a 36-year member of the Pinewald Pioneer Fire Company. He was an active adjunct instructor for New Jersey State Police Hazardous Materials Training programs for over 20 years.
DePaul was a Deputy Coordinator of the Berkeley Township Office of Emergency Management, a founding committee member for the New Jersey Task Force One (NJTF-1) Urban Search and Rescue Team, and past Deputy Fire Warden for the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service.
His tireless services earned him a Distinguished Service Medal and Award from the Ocean County Fire Marshal's Office in 2011.
He will be buried in Bayville Cemetery, in the town he loved and served for so long.