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Memorial service Feb. 23 for former LM fire chief

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POSTED February 16, 2013 2:06 a.m.

LATHROP – Jerry Sims spent 33-years on the job before he retired as the Fire Chief of the Lathrop Manteca Fire District.

He passed away in December after losing his battle with cancer.

But a week from today all of those who knew him as the dedicated, caring and forward-thinking public official that he was will get their formal chance to say good-bye as family take a drive through the district visiting all of the fire stations prior to a memorial service at the Lathrop Community Center.

The public event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 1 p.m. at the Lathrop Community Center – located at 15557 5th Street.

“Lathrop meant everything to him. His whole professional life was spent here,” said wife Starley Sims. “He was a big part of the community, and he cared deeply about it.”

It was his vision, however, that helped make him somebody that the rank-and-file had no problem getting behind.

When Lathrop was rapidly expanding in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Sims made sure that the District was able to adequately respond and cover the new areas that were being added. He championed the design and the construction of Station 34 – on River Islands Drive – even though he’d retire before he got the chance to see it operational.

He actually hired current Fire Chief Gene Neely in 1993, and according to Neely, helped teach him what he needed to know to move up the ladder from Engineer to Captain and eventually Battalion Chief, the position that he held when Sims retired.

Neely said he learned a lot from the man that would become his friend and his confidant, and honoring his last wish – taking him for one last ride through the district – is something that he’s proud his guys will be able to do.

“He showed great leadership in a time of change,” Neely said. “He had been here a lot longer than I had – he was here when I got here – so he knew a lot about what was going on in terms of how much the community was changing.

“He saw the district through one of its most important times. Working with him taught me so much – he showed me how to fight fires and how to serve the public.”

The route that the memorial ride will take is still being mapped out and will likely be private – his grandchildren are slated to be a part of the ride.

The community is invited to attend the memorial service which will be held at the Lathrop Community Center, 15557 5th Street, on Saturday, Feb. 23rd at 1 p.m.

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