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Published: 2/8/2014

COMMENTARY

From his church friends, an ode to a fallen firefighter

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST
Marilou Johanek Marilou Johanek
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SANDUSKY — Friends of James “Jamie” Dickman, the fallen Toledo firefighter, tend to say the same thing about the man and his job: It was his consummate calling in life; he was born to protect and serve.

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People who were close to the 31-year-old man, who died Jan. 26 battling a fire, are unanimous about him being all in as a firefighter. But Private Dickman was not one-dimensional.

He was also all in with his faith, according to many who worshiped with him. Even after the Sandusky native landed his dream job in the Toledo Fire Department and moved to Perrysburg, he still came home to church.

The former Perkins Township firefighter made frequent trips back to The Chapel in Sandusky to be part of its music ministry. He played guitar. His wife, also named Jamie, sang backup vocals.

The couple was known as “Mr. and Mrs. Jamie.” They had a newborn son, Grant, and a 3-year-old daughter, Paige, who regularly accompanied her parents to music practices and weekend services.

Charles Conrad, a worship leader at the church, said the guitar-playing firefighter was as passionate about God as he was about fighting fires and rescuing people.

“In the worship team, we look for people with a true servant’s heart,” Mr. Conrad said, “and he fit that bill perfectly.

“He was the most energetic, fun-loving person I’ve ever met,” Mr. Conrad told me. “You never knew what to expect with Jamie. He loved to shock and be spontaneous, to play the guitar loud and rock out.”

But he was a mainstay at church, giving musical witness to God, no matter what it took in personal time or travel, Mr. Conrad added.

“In Luke, Chapter 22, Jesus spoke to his disciples about how the greatest among them will be servants,” Mr. Conrad said. ”And Jamie lived that example of serving others and meeting their needs first.

“Being a firefighter gave him the privilege to not only be around people, but to serve them, and he was like that with church as well,” the music director said. “He had a way of getting folks to open up and share their lives with him in a way that I’ve not seen before.”

Nineteen-year-old Katie Gorsuch sang next to Mrs. Dickman at The Chapel, and got to know the firefighter through his wife. The two talked about the arduous task of getting the young family ready for long-distance worship every week.

“Paige was such a daddy’s girl,” Miss Gorsuch said. “A lot of times, she’d stand or sit in front of him and watch him play guitar. He was really funny, always joking about something in between services.”

She learned about his death from a church member’s memorial posting on Facebook. She read me what she posted in response: “An amazing man went to his eternal home today. I am proud to say I knew him if only for a short time. He did what he loved to do and praised the Lord with such a passion that I only wish I could be like him.”

Jerimae Yoder, another worship leader at Mr. Dickman’s church, said Jamie was “integral to our team ... He made an impact on a lot of people’s lives from just being who he was, the colorful person with a tattoo of the Twin Towers on his forearm and red pants on Sunday.

“But he really loved God and wanted to tell people about Him through music,” Mr. Yoder said. “Firefighting was one way he expressed himself. Music was another.”

Mr. Dickman was quietest when he talked about death with church friends. “He’d seen people die, and it shook him up because he cared and wished he could have saved them before it happened,” Mr. Yoder said.

“His integrity was phenomenal,” added Perkins Township Fire Chief Keith Wohlever, who worked with Mr. Dickman for more than 10 years. “He exemplified what a firefighter is and should be.”

To his faith community, he exemplified everything that is right, with selfless giving, humor, and heart. “He made people laugh, and wouldn’t want us to be sad,” Mr. Yoder said. He admitted that he caught himself “breaking down once in awhile.”

Jamie Dickman lived an impassioned life of service, family, and Christian fellowship. The music was loud and lasting. He was all in.

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact her at: mjohanek@theblade.com



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