One of Marco Island’s most beloved firefighters had a send-off from an overflow crowd at the firehouse on July 27th. Steve Fickling retired after 28 years of dedicated service, beginning June 20, 1984. His last position was Driver/Engineer, but he was also the guiding force behind Marco’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) which prepares citizens to deal with emergencies and catastrophes. Many of the well-wishers were CERT members, and numerous others were members of Marco Island’s Fire Rescue Foundation and the Marco Island Police Department.
Steve says that he considers himself: “a native Floridian because I came to Pompano Beach with my family when I was two months old. I have firefighting in my blood. My Dad was a volunteer firefighter and became chief of the volunteers. They took me to brush fires when I was a kid, and I’ve been doingfirefighting ever since, except when I was in the Army in Korea from 1972-’74, and while I was in college.” He graduated from Pompano Beach High School, and went on to receive a Business Degree from Broward Community College.
Chief Mike Murphy led the tributes, not only from the Fire Department, but also the Police Department, CERT and the Fire Rescue Foundation. Steve, who is well known for his perpetual smile and sunny nature, has been dubbed “Happy Jack” because he constantly up beat.
Chief Murphy thanked Steve for his devotion to public service: “Driver/Engineer Steve Fickling exemplifies the community spirit of the dedicated fire rescue personnel. Throughout his 28 year career he has always put people and his faith first. Driver/Engineer always had a smile and a firm handshake as he greeted people. He worked extremely hard to train both civilians and employees on disaster preparednessthrough the Community Emergency Response Team, of which he was one of the founders. Steve was a member of our hazardous material response team, and was actively involved with Lely High School and the Collier County CERT response system. To say that we shall miss him in the Department is an understatement.”
There were more than a few tears shed as a succession of speakers from the Fire Department, Police Department, CERT and Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation lauded him. Steve went through nearly a box of tissues himself. More than one speaker noted how well the fire rescue personnel and police officers cooperated in protecting the lives and property of Marco Islanders and visitors. Then followed a major highlight: an announcement over the Collier County broadcast system noting Steve’s retirement and congratulating him for his years of service. The group presented Steve with a numberof gifts, including badges and a treasured fire helmet, the cherished protector of our heroic fire fighters.
Steve demonstrated his loving nature when he deftly produced 28 magnificent yellow roses for his wife, Jay, whom he credited for being the strong force who bolstered him throughout his distinguished career.
In closing remarks Steve talked about his reliance on God who “looks after us in good times and bad, and is always there for us”, and thanked his wife for being his strong partner for 26 years. He is a devoted lay person in the Goodland Baptist Church where, coincidentally, Marco Island Fire Marshal Ray Munyon serves as Pastor. Steve said that he’s going to trade in his uniform for a membership in the Fire Rescue Foundation, and that he will still serve CERT. Although the Ficklings live in Goodland, Steve happily states that he will still be a presence on Marco Island.