South Schodack Fire Police Captain Harold Coons, Jr. was buried Tuesday in a family plot on land he once farmed. Firefighters whom he led and served accompanied him to graveside after a "Final Alarm" ceremony at the home of the fire company he helped found, 45 years ago. The observance is a customary "final tribute" by the fire service to its departed Chiefs and other heros.
Coons, who also chaired the South Schodack Fire District Board of Commissioners, died in the line of duty last Friday night, while supervising Fire Police and a med-evac landing zone on Route 9 in Schodack. One of the drivers subsequently died of injuries in what a veteran State Trooper called "the worst accident (he) had seen in 14 years on the job."
Following private funeral services in Castleton, Coons' remains were carried to his firehouse in the hosebed of the now-retired truck which he helped to purchase as South Schodack's first piece of apparatus. In fact, he housed "34-1" in one of his barns until the first firehouse was built. Ironically, the truck refused to leave the graveside. After the services, firefighters were unable to re-start "Speedy," as the former Air Force pumper is known, when they attempted to return it to its place of honor at the station.
Ladder trucks from East Greenbush and Clinton Heights flanked Bame Road supporting a US flag as firefighters led their former Chief's cortege. North Chatham Fire Department provided a bagpiper, Neil Roberts, to play "Amazing Grace" just before the Albany Med Flight roared overhead in a salute.
Participating Departments and Squads also included Averill Park, Castleton and Castleton Ambulance, Eagle Mills, East Schodack, Guilderland, Nassau, Niverville, Petersburg, Schaghticoke, Schodack Landing, Stuyvesant and Wynantskill. The New York State Office of Fire Prevention, FASNY, Rensselaer County and the NY State Fire Police Association also sent representatives.
Chief Coons' boots, coat, bunkers and helmet were draped in mute tribute on a chair among the department's trucks. The boots were reversed -- toes in -- in recognition that Coons had answered his final call -- the last of what one member estimated "may have totaled more than 8,000."
Harold Coons was 76. His survivors include his wife Catherine, a long time SSFD Auxilliary member and a son, David, also of Schodack. In addition to his fire department membership, Coons served many years on the Rensselaer County Fire Advisory Board, in the leadership of the Schodack Republican Party and as a member of The Reform Church of Schodack in Muitzeskill. An extended biography with comments from his colleagues is available at this link. Additional information can be found at or linked from this factsheet, prepared for our fire service colleagues and the media.
Digital Photography © 2002
by Firefighter Linda Wheeler