Edmonds firefighter mourned

  • By Katya Yemifova For the Enterprise
  • Tuesday, February 10, 2009 8:46pm

A U.S. flag folded into a triangle, rested upon a worn firefighter’s uniform, neatly laid out on top a small round table.

Underneath it sat a pair of boots and firefighting gear. A yellow helmet sparkled near a colorful bouquet of flowers.

The gear Sunday afternoon reminded those gathered at the Edmonds Center for the Arts of the man who won’t wear it again. Edmonds paramedic and firefighter Art DeLisle died last month in a climbing accident in Argentina.

More than 300 people, many in uniform, attended the memorial service to celebrate DeLisle’s life. He was killed by a falling rock Jan. 16 while climbing Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas. He was 51.

DeLisle led an active, adventurous life and had a passion for world history and travel, said Mark MacDonald, who began the ceremony. Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar (formerly Burma) were among De­Lisle’s favorite places, MacDonald said. He touched many people’s lives on his journeys.

Friends Katie Zacharia and Faith Lykken talked about the passion shared by DeLisle and his wife Lisa, and about DeLisle’s ability to always be himself.

“To Art, any limitation was self-inflicted,” Lykken said. “He never changed for any situation — not at work, not at home.”

“We have so much credit to give him today for the things we’ve accomplished,” Zacharia said, her voice unsteady with tears.

Friends and loved ones described DeLisle as a courageous, generous man with a sense of humor. They said he was a loving husband and stepdad, a dedicated teacher and a gifted paramedic.

“He shone the brightest when the times were the bleakest,” said Edmonds Fire Chief Tom Tomberg. “He was absolutely fearless … He was a seeker.”

Tomberg recalled DeLisle’s first and last fires with the Edmonds Fire Department, and all those times between the fires when DeLisle saved people’s lives as a paramedic.

“Art packed a lot of life in his 51 years,” Tomberg said.

The audience grew quiet as the veteran fire chief’s powerful voice broke into a sigh and trembled.

During a moment of silence that followed, men and women in uniform shared each other’s sadness.

But more often than anything during the service, they shared laughs. “If there were a nuclear war, all that would be left of life on Earth would be Art DeLisle and cockroaches,” said Brian Schleicher, a friend and fellow firefighter and paramedic.

“Art was a big guy with a big heart, who lived a big life,” Schleicher said.

He said he wasn’t there to mourn Sunday but to remember a man who recognized what was possible.

After the speakers left the stage, eyes turned to a slide show with images of DeLisle and video clips from his loved ones.

In one photo, DeLisle wore a suit. He wore biker’s shorts in the next one. In every photo, his eyes were smiling.

The final image was of a worn firefighter’s uniform and a yellow helmet with the name “Delisle” hanging from a coat rack.

Katya Yefimova writes for the Herald in Everett.

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