After more than two decades with the Red Oak Fire-Rescue and 14 years as its chief, Eric Thompson said good-bye at a lovely retirement ceremony.

Family, friends and colleagues across the state turned out at the Red Oak Municipal Center on Dec. 4 to honor the beloved serviceman for his years of service as he stood with his men as their chief for the last time.

“I am so proud and blessed to have served with such a fine group of dedicated and passionate professionals!” Thompson posted on Facebook. “Each individual provides extensive value to the organization for the betterment of the service delivery to the community. Keep up the progressive culture; there are no limits to your innovation and capabilities moving forward! It has been an honor to serve alongside all of you!!! Stay Safe!!”

Thompson was awed with the gift of a personalized 6-foot gear locker, on behalf of the department and the Red Oak Firefighters Association, to store his firefighter gear. It was handmade by Capt. Loss Horn who was approached with the idea by then-Deputy Chief Ben Blanton, now the interim chief.

“The locker itself and the doorframe are handmade out of red oak wood,” Horn explained. “The inside of the locker is lined with LED strip lights to illuminate his gear and the glass in the door has custom frosted glass graphics.”

Horn who enjoys woodwork as a hobby, said he worked on the extravagant gift for about two weeks.

The captain has worked with Thompson for some 12 years.

“[Thompson] actually gave me my job offer on Christmas day in 2007,” Horn recalled. “He was a great Chief and his ambitious nature helped the department to grow into what it is today. He was always thinking ahead and working to find ways to improve the department and the city to better serve our citizens…”

Thompson has numerous awards under his belt, including the 2018 and 2019 Texas Fire Chief of the Year awards.

During his years of service, the fire chief also served as assistant city manager of Red Oak and vice president of the Red Oak ISD School Board.

Thompson and his family will move to Medford, Oregon, where he was recently hired as fire chief of Medford Fire-Rescue. He starts in January.