Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation pays tribute to Sunshine Coast’s long serving hero
By Jordan Copp, Local Journalism Initiative reporterHeadlines News Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation Canadian Fallen Firefighters Memorial
Nov. 16, 2023, Ottawa – This fall, the name of a Sunshine Coast volunteer firefighter was posthumously engraved into the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s memorial wall (CFFF), and his widow travelled all the way to Ottawa to see it.
Andre Dube was a volunteer firefighter on the Coast for 38 years before he passed in November 2022 from presumptive cancer likely caused by his years of service.
He was known not only for saving homes from fire, but for building them. Dube built so many homes in Roberts Creek that certain areas are referred to as “DubeVille”, and Dube himself was known by many nicknames such as “Obi-wan Dube”.
“Andre lived a life of community service in the RCAF Royal Canadian Air Force, RCMP Auxiliary, Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire Department and as a Journeyman Red Seal Tradesman and Instructor in Carpentry, overseeing the apprenticeship program for both the shíshálh Nation and his construction business,” his obituary reads. “A vast number of Coast homes bear his fingerprints to this day. Andre took great pride in his trade and a legacy of quality construction.”
His wife Kathy said that when she met Dube he already had a reputation for helping anyone who needed a hand.
“Not only were they working, being firefighters, they were a support network 24/7 to each other as well,” she said.
She said that the Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire Department (RCVFD) has a stellar reputation for producing high-calibre firefighters, with many honourary lifetime members who are recognized for a long-term commitment to the RCVFD. One of them, John Phare, also has his name on the memorial wall.
Dube still speaks with her late husband. On route to the ceremony, she told him, “‘Hey, honey, don’t worry, I’m on my way to Ottawa, and your name is going to get on the wall.’ And I said, ‘You know what, Johnny will be waiting for you.’ And Johnny’s name was not very far from where his was.”
On Sept. 8, 87 families gathered to honour their loved ones at the City of Ottawa Fire Services Memorial. Together, they held a moment of private reflection at the memorial wall that bears thousands of names of fallen Canadian firefighters. (The Ottawa Fire Service (OFS) also has their own monument dedicated to the fallen firefighters having worked for the City of Ottawa.)
Dube said she felt connected to the CFFF the minute she arrived at the luggage carousel.
“I heard ‘Kathy Kathy Kathy’. And when I turned around it was a CFFF wildland volunteer with a big sign, Mark CFFF, who volunteered to shuttle families around for the duration of the memorial to see the capital and all the events.”
One of the services provided at the ceremony was a grief counselor chaplain, who Dube described as “popular as hell.”
“He was extremely engaging,” Dube said. “And there were people that just gravitated to him and probably got through the weekend just by knowing he was there.”
Another popular event was “Pints & Pipers”, where dozens of bagpipe players and drummers performed on the patio of a local pub for friends and family. Private tours of the Parliament building were also offered to guests of the ceremony, as well as family dinners.
According to Dube, the ceremony was filled with inclusion, respect and solidarity. The 2023 CFFF ceremony was also the first to include recognition for wildland firefighters.
“Everybody got dolled up, guys had actually shaved, and put on a suit jacket,” said Dube.
The ceremony is far from all that the CFFF does. The CFFF provides support to the families who are suffering with loss and grief throughout the country.
Between meeting others in similar situations, and the services provided by CFFF, Dube said she learned a lot about her own grief. Without a doubt, Dube said, attending the CFFF ceremony and meeting others who have shared similar experiences has helped her own healing journey – and formed new friendships. Dube said that the unique sense of brotherhood between the invited families could not be understated.
Dube added that, “The commitment of the RCVFD firefighters would be impossible without a strong, supportive and invested spouse or family always present to contribute towards this gift of ultimate community service.”
As for the memorial ceremony, Dube said, “I want to go back. I want to know how I could benefit the foundation. I would be willing to call that my vacation and pay my own way.
“I’m all in.”
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