No one batted an eye when firetrucks roared onto the Country Meadows of Lancaster campus this past April.
It wasn’t a fire call. The engines were accompanied by dozens of firefighters who came to honor resident Paul “PJ” McCracken, who served the city of Lancaster for nearly 40 years as a professional firefighter.
McCracken, 93, was receiving care from Caring Hospice Services, who contacted the fire department to arrange the celebration of his life and service. One of the engines visiting the campus was particularly special to McCracken—he served on that very truck during his career.
“We wanted to give him a good sendoff, a good tribute for what he did for his country and for what he did for the Lancaster Bureau of Fire,” says Lt. Dusty Dommel-Lancaster Bureau of Fire.
During his career, McCracken rose to the rank of Captain and trained many probationary firefighters on techniques to graduate into the city program and become excellent emergency responders.
According to retirement firefighter, Lt. Ed Knight, “His passion was service to the fire bureau and the community — an inspiring leader if ever there was one.”
Several dozen current and retired firefighters, many trained by McCracken, attended to wish him well and catch up. As he was raised in a truck bucket with two firemen, the department’s trumpeter played “Taps” in his honor. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including McCracken.
“You could tell, his eyes were all bright, he just loved it,” shares his daughter, Sharon Yeaglin.
After the honor service, McCracken was presented with a United States flag for his service to country, state and the city of Lancaster. Yeaglin says her father told her, “Today was amazing.”
Editor’s Note: Paul “PJ” McCracken passed away just two weeks after this tribute, on April 24, 2018. According to his obituary, “One of his life mantras was “Make a difference.” He saved lives and property, and he taught a generation of young men to become excellent firefighters. He taught his family, through his actions, the importance of honoring and respecting all people and doing the right things right.”
Rest in peace Mr. McCracken and thank you.