FFs, residents mourn loss of dedicated Ind. firefighter, EMT, family man

Mark Gillam died on National Fallen Firefighters Day after a long battle with COVID-19

Duty Death: Mark Gillam - [Elwood, Indiana]

End of Service: 10/03/2021


Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin

ELWOOD, Ind. — During an emotional ceremony, the city of Elwood honored firefighter Mark Gillam, who died in the line of duty.

Gillam, 58, died Oct. 3 on National Fallen Firefighters Day after a long battle with the COVID-19 virus. His chief said the department is positive he caught COVID while on duty.

He served as a member of the Elwood Fire Department for 31 years and was remembered as someone who loved the community.

Firefighters from throughout central Indiana attended the service, and residents of Elwood lined North Anderson Street on Tuesday to pay homage to Gillam.

During the traditional last call of duty, the Indiana University Medical helicopter flew over Elwood Junior and Senior High School.

The members of the Elwood Fire Department stood at attention when Gillam's casket was moved from the high school auditorium. Each firefighter placed hands on Gillam's helmet as a final farewell.

"We're not here to focus on how he died but how he lived," said the Rev. Roger Gardner. "We're here to celebrate the life of Mark Gillam."

Gillam volunteered with the Hoosier Burn Camp for 21 years and was a coach, umpire and small business owner in Elwood.

He also served with the U.S. Marine Corps before returning to Elwood to join the department.

"Our heart is breaking in two," Mayor Todd Jones said. "This is a tremendous loss for our community as a whole.

"He was an important part of our city and a loyal friend," Jones said. "He served his country and his community."

Jones said Gillam taught fire safety to schoolchildren and was always there in a time of need.

"He believed in our city," he said. "He was loyal, admired and respected in Elwood and beyond. There is no way to know how many lives he touched."

Fire Chief Mark Sullivan said Gillam was a dedicated firefighter and EMT for 31 years.

"More importantly, he was a family man."

Sullivan said he learned a lot from Gillam, and he was always there as a voice of reason and knowledge.

"Goodbyes are not forever or the end," he said. "I'll miss you until we meet again."

Rev. Gardner said there were many things that were characteristic of Gillam's life.

"The two main ones were family and service to others," he said. "We need more people like Mark Gillam."

The Alexandria, Chesterfield, Kokomo and Pipe Creek fire departments sent units to Elwood on both Monday and Tuesday to cover any service calls so local firefighters could take part in the service.

Kevin Cox with the Kokomo Fire Department was part of the honor guard Monday at Copher-Fesler-May Funeral Home.

Cox said he didn't know Gillam, but he was still a brother and part of the firefighter family.

"We want to support our brother and sister firefighters around the state when they lose a member," said Cox, who's been with Kokomo's department 28 years.

Anderson firefighter Sherman Carter was at the funeral home Monday and a member of the fire department for 14 years.

"We're all one big family," Carter said of his presence in Elwood.

Sullivan said Monday that he worked 22 years with Gillam, who was instrumental within the department the whole time.

"Even before I was the chief, Mark was always the go-to guy when it came to inspections and the Indiana Code Book," he said. "He will be hard to replace with all his knowledge."

Sullivan said he kept in touch with Gillam while he battled COVID from his hospital bed.

"He (Gillam) was upbeat until they put him on a ventilator," he said.

Sullivan said the department will take care of Gillam's family.

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(c)2021 The Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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