Copperas Cove firefighter Jose Negrete was remembered earlier this week as a humble and quiet young man dedicated to his profession, and who died serving and protecting his community.
“Firefighter Negrete was an individual I was blessed to be able to meet,” Copperas Cove Deputy Chief Gary Young said, following a funeral service Tuesday at Holy Family Catholic Church. “Him being in my life, and me being in his life, I think, was very mutual.
“He was a good man; a good family man. Very soft spoken. He kept quiet and did his job. He was a model firefighter, as far as I am concerned.”
Negrete, 30, died July 28 from lymphoma, a type of cancer, and his death was termed a “line of duty illness,” as firefighters are considered at risk for different types of cancer due to the smoke and hazardous chemicals they are exposed to while on duty.
The Rev. Patrick Ebner, who led Tuesday’s service, described Negrete as a “hometown son” who loved playing video games. He was married for seven years to wife, Maggie.
“I encourage you to remember the good things about our brother Joe,” Ebner told the gathering that included family and friends, along with dozens of emergency personnel from Waco, Liberty Hill, Marble Falls, Kempner, Travis County, Killeen, and Copperas Cove. “We also must remember the tragic reality — that he died at the age of 30 from lymphoma, a line of duty illness arising from the dangers of protecting the common good of our city, Copperas Cove.
“I imagine many people here — at times, myself included — want to cry out to God the question of why, and that is OK. (Because) our Lord Jesus Christ, as he hung upon the cross and died for our salvation, did the same thing. He cried out these words: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
“Be men and women of prayer. Trust our Lord Jesus, and his love for Joe. I know there are still going to be tears, but my encouragement is this — trust in God. If we follow him in faith, he will lead us to life everlasting. Amen.”
Following a traditional Catholic ceremony inside the church, the service moved outside, where Deputy Chief Young led a customary firefighter send-off that included the ringing of the bell, signifying the final end of duty.
“To symbolize the devotion that these brave souls had for their duty, a special signal of three rings, three times each, represents the end of our comrade’s duties, and that they will be returning to quarters,” Young said. “With this, we pay respect to our departed brother, Jose Negrete, whose task is completed, his duties well done. To our comrade, his last alarm. He is going home.”
Fire Chief Michael Neujahr took the folded flag that covered Negrete’s casket and presented it to his widow, and a pair of bag pipers played Amazing Grace, before an honor guard loaded the casket into the back of a hearse, and a long procession of emergency vehicles began the trip to Temple, where Negrete’s body was to be cremated.
“Jose was a remarkable young man. He was quiet as a mouse … and I never had to write him up for anything,” Neujahr said, smiling. “He was a tremendous paramedic, and a humble firefighter. He was a really solid guy, and he is really going to be missed. Everybody loved him.”
Travis County firefighter Dawn Motsinger, a former Copperas Cove first-responder, agreed.
“Jose was a great guy. He was kind and funny, and I always enjoyed working with him. He made each shift better.”