A giant flag was draped between two ladder trucks as the funeral procession for East Bridgewater Deputy Fire Chief Robert Fairburn made its way down Central Street to St. John's Church in East Bridgewater Monday.

The Busy Bee preschool on Bedford Street displayed a handmade sign depicting an American flag with children’s hand prints that said, “Thank you, Firefighter Bob.”

It was one of the many tributes to East Bridgewater Deputy Fire Chief Robert Fairburn, as townspeople and firefighters from across the region turned out Monday to pay their respects at his funeral.

Fairburn, 53, died last Wednesday after a car he was working on at his Summer Street home fell on him. He was on the East Bridgewater Fire Department for 32 years, and was deputy chief for the past 13 years.

Laura Brooks, 51, of East Bridgewater, said Fairburn’s death is “a horrible loss” for East Bridgewater and  “the whole town is in mourning.”

“He’s a townie, a regular. He was one of those guys who stayed in town, with no ambition to go anywhere else. He was dedicated to the town,” said Brooks, who stood across Central Street from St. John’s as the procession approached.

East Bridgewater police have not released the police report from last Wednesday’s incident, saying it is still being investigated.

A lifelong East Bridgewater resident, Fairburn was married to Ruth Ann Fairburn and was the father of Donnie, Elizabeth and Daniel.

East Bridgewater fire and rescue apparatus lined Plymouth Street in front of Blanchard Funeral Chapel in Whitman, where the service was held. Firefighters in full dress uniform greeted mourners as they entered the chapel.

Inside, about 80 family members and friends remained silent before the casket. Displayed were two portraits of Fairburn as well as a bunker jacket.

Led by Fire Chief Ryon Pratt, firefighters entered the chapel and stood, with hands folded, in a ring around the room.

Afterward, on the way to St. John’s Church in East Bridgewater later Monday morning for a Mass, the procession passed under a giant American flag hoisted over Central Street by Whitman and East Bridgewater ladder trucks.

Passing by firefighters from several communities who lined both sides of Central Street, members of the Brockton Firefighters Pipes & Drums and Greater Boston Firefighters Pipes & Drums played “Rowan Tree.”

East Bridgewater firefighters also made their way to St John’s on foot. Pratt walked behind them, carrying a fire helmet in front of him.

Fairburn’s family members did not speak during the service.

Pratt said Fairburn was a dedicated firefighter, father and husband who was never quick to judge, never missed a community or sporting event, and never hesitated to lend a helping hand.

“He represents the very best the fire service has to offer,” Pratt said.

After the Mass, townspeople lined Central and Plymouth streets as the procession made its way to the Beaver Cemetery, where Fairburn was buried.

Krissi Choquette, 31, her children Emilee Choquette, 3, and Dylan Choquette, 2, and her mother Shirley Brigham held American flags as they paid respects outside of the church Monday morning.
Brigham, who works at Cumberland Farms on Bedford Street, said she would see Fairburn come in two or three times a week.

“He was very quiet, polite, just a nice guy,” said Brigham, 62.

Peter Blackman, 56, of East Bridgewater, who took memorial photos of the procession for the family, said the town is going to miss Fairburn.

“He was pretty much a fixture. He was as much the Fire Department as anyone could be, I suppose,” he said.

West Bridgewater Fire Chief Leonard Hunt, who also attended the funeral, said he became a firefighter around the same time as Fairburn.

“It’s like any other department, it’s a terrible loss, especially with him being the second-in-command, someone you depend on a daily basis,” Hunt said.

College educational accounts have been arranged for the children at East Bridgewater Savings Bank; 29 Bedford St.; East Bridgewater, MA 02333.

The Enterprise