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N.Y. highway renamed to honor fallen firefighter Peyton Morse

“When we see these signs, it will be bittersweet. It’s a reminder of the loss — not that we ever forget it — but it also lets us know that the communities won’t forget him,” Peyton Morse’s father said


Photo/Morse Family

By Zachary Canaperi
Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

LAFARGEVILLE, N.Y. — A section of State Route 180 that runs through the hamlet was renamed in honor of Peyton L.S. Morse Saturday.

Morse died on March 12, 2021, after suffering a medical emergency during a training exercise at the New York State Fire Academy of Fire Science at Montour Falls. He had been on the path to becoming a firefighter for the city of Watertown. Nearly three years after his death, a crowd of over 100 people gathered in a sunlit roadside field just south of town.

On one side of the crowd was the flat, straight stretch of dotted yellow two-lane highway, splitting the countryside. On the other side of them were the fire engines — many of them — parked one in front of the other by the wood line.

With anticipation, they watched as a covering was lifted off a large road sign, unveiling bold white letters on a light brown backdrop, that said: " Firefighter Peyton L S Morse Memorial Highway .”

The crowd let out a cheer and a round of applause.

Morse’s family, including his mother, Stacey L. Morse, father, David M. Morse and brother Parker S. Morse , were joined by elected officials, community members and other first responders. During the ceremony, they recognized Morse’s commitment to the community and remembered his outstanding character.

David Morse said that his son was someone who enjoyed doing good for others, and the renaming of the signs will serve as a reminder of his contributions to the community. His son, who volunteered at LaFargeville, Loudonville and Watertown Fire Departments, helped people while on the job, but also during his free time.

“It’s very humbling, but it lets us know that Peyton’s legacy will continue. He was an incredible young man who really believed in giving back to his communities. He loved to help everybody, and we found out how much he helped when nobody was looking,” Morse said.

The renaming of the sign brought out different emotions for Morse.

“When we see these signs, it will be bittersweet. It’s a reminder of the loss — not that we ever forget it — but it also lets us know that the communities won’t forget him. And we are very thankful.”

State Sen. Mark C. Walczyk , who worked to pass the bill that led to Saturday’s ceremony, wishes that people can learn from Morse and how he chose to live.

“We are never going to be able to fully repay Peyton for his sacrifice, but today we gather to honor his life and rededicate our own. That we may learn from this firefighter who is forever young — a firefighter from LaFargeville. That we may live with his passion, his compassion, his service to community, and Peyton’s love. May God bless Celeste and the Morse family from strife, and may God protect the brave men and women who are willing to pick up and sacrifice where Peyton left off,” Walczyk said.

Watertown City Fire Chief, Matthew R. Timerman , had a similar message.

“His dedication to the protection of these communities was plain to all who knew him. He agreed to face danger to protect his communities and his fellow firefighters. I’m proud that his commitment and sacrifice was recognized through this dedication. While Peyton is no longer with us, his legacy will live on to inspire future generations,” he said.

Assemblyman Scot A. Gray ., R- Watertown, who partnered with Sen. Walczyk to pass the renaming bill, emphasized the importance of having people like Morse in the community.

“This road dedicated with his name, serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by all firefighters, every day. It symbolizes the unity of our community, the recognition of their indispensable role in our society. It stands as a testament to the strength and character of Peyton Morse ,” he said.


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