November 13, 2003 ... A Sweet Legend Passes
By: Brad Rey
On November 13, 2003, my father, Captain Rene E. Rey, 32-year veteran of the S.F.F.D., died after a 15-year bout with lymphoma. I’m writing this letter to all in the brotherhood that knew and worked with my father.

It was in 1953 that Dickey Pera (Mike’s father) came into my dad’s bar on 3rd Street and said, “Rene, we’re going to sign up for the fire department.” My dad jumped over the bar, and the beginning of a 32-year love affair began. We used to laugh, and he would say, “If they only knew that I’d do this job for nothing! Greatest job in the world.”

In 1977, I was getting a sandwich on Geary Street and one of my pals ran into the deli and said, “Brad, you have to see this.” Fire was blowing out of two windows on the 800 block of Geary. In an instant, the downtown crews went into their precision evolutions. I just happened to look up and there was the Wire (Bill Cochran) with his engine crew and my father with the old crew of Truck 3, working in sweet tandem. It was like watching 62 Giants and Yankees doing battle. I was blown away and knew I had to be part of the franchise.

My father would say, “If you want that job instead of going to have a few beers after work, you’d better go down to old St. Patrick’s on Mission Street and ask the Blessed Mother to bless you like she blessed me.” I got down there (not as often as I should have) and in 1979, I, too, was blessed with the greatest job in the world.

In 1972, my father was promoted to Lieutenant and he just happened to be floating through 38 Engine. Truck 3 was assigned there while the new house was being built in 1976. My father used to tell Guggi, “I want to get out of here and go back to the best crew in the city, back to St. 6.” Guggi would say to Pop that if he came down to Three he would change his mind and never leave. Al was right again.

There were two great stories among the hundreds that made me feel even more proud that he was my father. We’d had a tough fire in the Pink Palace. I was a probie and that day I was working with a young lieutenant by the name of John Harrington (AC John). There was a lot of sulfur dioxide and there were many tasks that needed to be completed. Three truck took on a task that even made me stand back in amazement. John looked at me and said, “You never stop learning from guys like that.” I was really proud of him that day. He was always so mild-mannered. I wasn’t used to seeing him so into what he truly loved. I wasn’t his son that day. There was a lot of work to be done, and he was all business.

The second story was about a young Bruce Platt and Marty Ross. The young lions were circling Webster Street at 3 o’clock in the morning with their 65-year-old boss waiting to jump on a second alarm that was in progress. He loved that job and his crew. He used to say to me, “All I need are Ernie Aiken and the president (a.k.a. Jim Ferguson) and we could handle the whole city.” Then the shots and the laughter took over.

In my 25 years service with the S.F.F.D., I was fortunate to work with two of my father’s closest friends, firemen that truly represent what the S.F.F.D. is all about. With undeniable character and integrity. The kind of officers that spending 24 hrs with them wasn’t enough time. Two great guys that were truly great friends of my father’s, Ray O’Leary and Jack Bogue. He used to say to me, “Brad, you’ll never be around better men.” And he was right. I want to thank the brotherhood for all their kind thoughts and deeds on this sad day. I just wish you all could have a father like mine, kind and compassionate, a true gentleman till the end. You’ll never be forgotten, dad, not as long as there’s a good Texas game going on somewhere in the city. Enjoy the journey we talked about. You’ve earned it.

Photo Provided By: Brad Rey


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