People around Ellis County have described Don Chambers with a single word, dedicated. He was a man dedicated to his family, community, and fellow firefighters.
Chambers served 45 years with the Italy Volunteer Fire Department with 23 of those years as chief. He passed away on Wednesday.
Jackie Cates, who is a captain with the Italy Fire Department, the Italy mayor and Chambers’ son-in-law, stated Chambers had a deep love for the community he served daily.
“Don is what I would call a true servant because he just wanted to help his community,” Cates said. “He wore so many hats, and in the middle of that, he was still responding to emergency calls. It is unbelievable what he did.”
Cates added the department’s new station is a testimony to Chambers commitment to giving back. Chambers and fellow Italy firefighters worked to build the station, putting a lot of themselves in the building with each swing of the hammer.
Walking through the station, Cates pointed to the interior pieces crafted by the chief, who had at one time worked as a carpenter.
“The station was his dream and he had it for a long time,” Cates said. “Money was tight. A lot of the things that you see in here the chief built. The paint, the cabinets, and that shelf over there, Don Chambers did every bit of it.”
Chambers’ sons, Brad and Michael, have served with their dad for more than 20 years at the fire department.
Brad shared Chambers was always trying to find a way to help even when he was not wearing a uniform. He joined the fire service to follow in his footsteps.
“He was all about helping people whether it had anything to do with the fire department or not,” Brad said. “If it was somebody who needed some help with some carpentry work or something else, dad was there helping them.”
Brad stated Chambers knew that his firefighters would do what it would take to make the department the best it could be for the community.
Before working full time in Italy, Chambers started his career with the Waxahachie Fire Department in 1980 and served there for almost 10 years.
Randy Muirhead, retired Waxahachie firefighter, stated his dedication to service shined brightly.
“Don was dedicated to helping other people and worked to build people up. He was very good in helping the younger guys,” Muirhead said. “He continued that dedication when he went down to Italy.”
Mark Jackson, Milford Fire Chief, describes Chambers' service to Ellis County as “immeasurable” and that he was a “natural leader.”
Jackson shared that Chambers worked to educate firefighters throughout the area with the classes he taught. He noted these classes are why he and many others have become certified firefighters through the state.
“He has had a huge impact on the south part of this county,” Jackson said. “It is going to be hard to fill, and we are going to miss him. Other people are going to step up, but it might take three or four to do what he was doing.”
Wess Curry, Forreston Fire Department chief, stated Chambers was a person who could always be counted on at any time.
“You could not ask for a better guy than Don Chambers. Don was my instructor when I went through the academy. He was not only a great instructor, but he was a great mentor to me,” Curry said. “As I progressed through the fire service and became the fire chief in Forreston, I probably would not have been successful if it were not for Don. Don was always there to ask questions and to pass along wisdom.”
Brad Elliot, the chief deputy for Ellis County Constable Precinct 2, worked with Chambers in the Shop with a Hero program.
“He was very much involved,” Elliot said. “When the program started he reached out to the police chief and said, ‘let's do more.’”
Elliot recalled that partnership gave the program a firm foundation and helped it to grow over the past seven years.
The service for Chambers will be held at the Boze Mitchell McKibbin funeral home at 10 a.m. on Friday. It is located at 511 W. Main Street in Waxahachie. The procession will travel along U.S. Highway 77 to the Italy City Cemetery located at 210 Couch Street.