CENTERVILLE, Iowa-- The Centerville Fire Department lost its longest serving member over the weekend. Wednesday for the first time, friends are sharing their memories of 61-year-old Assistant Fire Chief Mike Cooper.
“He was a firefighter, he died in the line of duty, but I think the biggest thing to remember about Coop is also had a son and the son meant the world to him,” said fellow firefighter Nick Hindley.
Coop's boots and firefighting gear still hang next to those of the men he fought alongside. He died after battling a massive fire at Cowan Enterprises Friday evening. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Hindley says the 37-year veteran lost his life doing a job he loved.
“It was just something that he loved. It was a group of guys that he loved,” said Hindley.
Longtime friend Larry Heffron knew him off the job. He says it's hard to talk about Coop in the past tense.
“When you're as loyal and intense person as he is, it doesn't fade away and I hope it doesn't,” said Heffron.
Heffron says becoming a father to son, Cole, made his friend a better man.
“Cole was the last person to talk to him. Coop would have wanted it that way,” said Heffron.
Cooper will be laid to rest this Saturday in Centerville and hundreds of people are expected to pay their respects. That includes a police and fire procession to the cemetery.