The West Shore Local Hero Awards are back! You can find this year’s special feature in the March 16 edition of the Goldstream Gazette or online under e-editions. Stay tuned for more on each of this year’s honourees, you will also be able to read their stories online at goldstreamgazette.com/tag/local-hero-awards.
The West Shore lost one of its finest in 2021.
Colwood Fire Chief John Cassidy, who served with Colwood Fire Rescue since 1999 and as chief since 2017, died suddenly on June 23, 2021.
With 22 years of dedicated service in Colwood, Cassidy’s contributions to the health and safety of the community are immeasurable. The breadth and depth of that legacy can be seen in part through the thoughts and reflections of those closest to him in the weeks following his death.
Assistant Fire Chief Greg Chow said Cassidy’s passing is a huge loss for the department and the firefighting community.
“I know Chief Cassidy was most proud when his son Ryan joined the department a few years back,” Chow said. “John leaves a lasting memory in all of our hearts. Always assisting, not only our department but many others as well, with fire code interpretations, fire investigation questions and examining future fire inspectors … I had the pleasure of working alongside John these past 20 years and can honestly say that he always had the community’s best interest first and foremost. We will carry on with the many initiatives he started with ours and other departments because John would have wanted it that way.”
Cassidy was also an integral part and architect of the West Shore Command Team and the integration of operations between View Royal, Colwood and Langford with their mutual aid agreements. Agreements that were put to use the night of his passing as Langford and View Royal covered Colwood’s fire rescue services, allowing the department space to process the shock and grief.
Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey called his death a devastating loss for the West Shore.
“Chief Cassidy has dedicated his life to serving others and he worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of residents on the West Shore. He was a respected leader, colleague and friend and I will miss him greatly.”
During a memorial service in July, View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst said the community lost a hero in Cassidy.
“He always put family first, Colwood next, himself last.”
Cassidy’s family, friends and colleagues from across the province gathered on the lower field at West Shore Parks and Recreation for the ceremony.
“I’m exhausted by the passing of John, I am broken and sad. I’m not quite finished crying over this incredible loss,” Hurst said during his speech which brought tears to the eyes of the hundreds in attendance.
He closed by remembering his last call with Cassidy, just 15 minutes before the chief’s death.
“I ended that phone call by telling John I will see you tomorrow, I love you. He replied ‘I love you too brother Paul.’ I get to keep that in my heart until the day I die.”
The last speakers were Cassidy’s wife and two kids. They remembered him as someone who cared fiercely, and whose humour and goofy antics always lit up their day.
Lauren, Cassidy’s daughter, said her father would listen to anyone who needed it.
“He would always ask how you were doing and he’s one of the few people who I think really genuinely wanted to know,” Lauren said. “He always wanted to help people, to be there when they needed it most.”
His son, Ryan, will miss the kindness and optimism that filled the many little talks they shared every day.
“My father was brave, strong and fearless,” Ryan said, adding his father always lived up to be the person and firefighter he bragged about.
Cassidy’s wife Monique said Cassidy loved Colwood and was so proud to be its fire chief.
He leaves behind a hole in the community and big boots to fill. But as Hurst said, “Rest easy brother, we will take it from here.”
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