Hometown hero laid to rest with honors
HAMPTON—A volunteer firefighter since his teens, Hampton Fire and Rescue Squad Deputy Chief Daniel Rumsey dedicated his life to the emergency services of Sussex County, his friends say.
Rumsey was the man who helped start three emergency squads in the county: He was founder of the Hampton Fire and Rescue Squad, a member and founder of the original Fredon Emergency Medical Service, and founder of the Fredon-Stillwater EMS, which became the Stillwater EMS, Rumsey, who served as captain of all these squads, was known for his 40 years of service to Sussex County.
"We used to joke that he had three families: The township, the fire and EMS service, and we were third. But we didn't mind, because that's the kind of man he was," said his wife, Vera Rumsey.
Friends and family packed Smith-McCracken funeral home Wednesday to pay tribute to Rumsey, 59, who died suddenly on Monday at Morristown Memorial Hospital after suffering a heart attack.
Rumsey was the certified public works manager for Hampton Township, where he had been employed since May 1972.
He is perhaps best known for helping to establish the Hampton Fire and Rescue Squad, in March 1999.
"I remember being very concerned about presenting the financial picture of the fire house to the township committee, because I was worried about how we would find members, but Danny said, 'I promise you, if we build it, they will come,'" said Hampton Township administrator Eileen Klose.
The firehouse started with about 10 members, and today there are 62.
Rumsey's colleagues said that it was nine9 months, it was open and ready for business, a task many residents believed would take at least three years.
On Jan. 1, 2000, Hampton Fire and Rescue took its first call.
"He was committed to his work 1,000 percent," said Vera Rumsey.
Rumsey's close friend and former colleague, Hampton Fire Chief Dave Gunderman, said that Rumsey frequently went out of his way to respond to a fire. Gunderman recalled the Aldersgate Camp and Conference Center fire in November 2005, when the camp lost its main building.
Gunderman said that Rumsey was enjoying a day off at a casino in Monticello, N.Y., but after hearing from a colleague that the fire had engulfed the building, Rumsey rushed home to help put out the flames.
"He stayed there putting out that fire until 6 in the morning. He was enjoying his time off, but he dropped everything he was doing to come help. If he could be involved, he would do it," Gunderman said.
While he was known for his selflessness and the occasional practical joke, friends say that Rumsey, nicknamed "Grumpy" and "Pop," often hid behind his "stern" exterior.
"Danny was stern, and some could take that the wrong way, but once you knew him, you knew that he was a really friendly and caring person," said Russell Bellis Jr., captain of the Hampton Fire and Rescue Squad.
Bellis said Rumsey earned the nickname "Grumpy" for the way that he used to affectionately tease his children and grandchildren.
"He used to have this scowl on his face, but he was actually like butter, and he loved his grandchildren. His grandkids were his entire life," Vera Rumsey said.
Vera Rumsey, who has spent the last 24 years working as a 911 dispatcher in Newton, said that while it was sometimes difficult, she was never really worried about her husband being out in the field.
"It made it difficult being on both ends, but I knew that he was with these guys, so I always knew he was OK," Vera Rumsey said of the Hampton Fire and Rescue Squad.
Rumsey lived in Sussex County his whole life. He was born in Newton and moved to Hampton 27 years ago. He began his long career of community service when he was a teenager, serving at Swartswood Volunteer Fire Department's Junior Fire Department, where he moved through the ranks and eventually served as chief of the department.
Rumsey is survived by his wife, Vera; one son, Michael Rumsey and his wife, Tricia, of Wantage; a stepdaughter, Erica Casario and her husband, Rick, of Hampton; a stepson, Bob Youngs and his wife, Rebecca, of Andover Township; four grandchildren, Jordyn and Daniel Rumsey and Abby and Anthony Casario; two sisters, Geri Stevens of Andover Township and Sharon Straway and her husband Max, of Thompson, Pa.; one brother, Robert Rumsey of New York; and several nieces and nephews.
Memorial donations may be made to the Hampton Township Volunteer Fire and Rescue Truck Fund, PO Box 646, Augusta, NJ 07822