Photos and Story by LIBBY CLUETT
At about 10:55 a.m., near the end of Robin Allen’s funeral service at First Baptist Church Friday, her comrades sounded the “Last Call” – a final tone or alarm for a departed firefighter. Following the tone was retired Mineral Wells Police Department dispatcher Bernie Mitchell’s distinct voice, announcing to the congregation and community Allen’s last call.
For many who perhaps stood stoically during the beautiful service, this final recognition for the late Mineral Wells Fire Chief, who died at her home Sept. 20, was a tipping point, as so many shed tears for their friend, coworker, colleague and, for many citizens, a hero.
Afterwards, a lone bagpiper, from Southlake Fire Department, performed “Amazing Grace,” leading Allen’s honor guard and loved ones out of the church sanctuary.
The church was filled with a sea of uniform colors – from shades of blue, worn by firefighters and police, to beige, worn by deputies and troopers. There were several baseball players, symbolically in uniform, a few wearing Rams’ red-and-white and two entire rows of young men wearing green for Seward County Community College Saints’ baseball team, from Liberal, Kansas, for which Allen oldest son, Bryson, plays.
Red and white colors also filled the altar, symbolizing Allen’s love for watching and supporting her three athletic children in Mineral Wells ISD sports – in fact, one display of red and white blooms formed a massive baseball.
Meanwhile, outside, trees showed a few hints of fall colors as Allen’s procession drove her casket from the church to the Brad Cemetery, at Palo Pinto County’s western edge.
A small entourage of family, accompanied by firefighters, troopers, police and deputies drove to her private burial, following her casket, which rode high on a Mineral Wells VFD truck. According to MWVFD Capt. Jerry VanNatta, Allen’s casket rode on a truck that also carried Bazil “Pops” Wright, at his request, to his final resting place. VanNatta said this was significant because Allen was Wright’s shift leader and this was the truck he took care of and is named for him.
When they passed the long line of fire trucks, parked along West Hubbard during her funeral, crews stood by their vehicles and saluted.
Many Mineral Wells fire trucks, ambulances and police cars led the group to the edge of town, seeming to continue the ‘round-the-clock vigil they had maintained since responding to the initial dispatch one week prior.
But this symbolic vigil didn’t end at the edge of town.
When the small procession of vehicles drove west, along U.S. Highway 180 toward a hazy, quiet Metcalf Gap, other county volunteer fire departments seemingly continuing the vigil toward her final resting place by parking their fire engines at their respective intersections – Possum Kingdom East and Graford at State Highway 337, Palo Pinto at Farm-to-Market Road 4, Gordon at FM 919 and Strawn at SH 16.
Above the entrance to the cemetery, two aerial trucks – one from Weatherford and the other from Haltom City fire departments – suspended a large American flag from each apex of their fully extended ladders – another firefighters’ tradition.
Allen leaves behind her children, ages 16-19, husband Garry, and thousands whose lives intersected hers.
As First Baptist Church Pastor Nathan Buchanan said, addressing the hundreds who attended Friday morning’s service, “Robin was also committed to her line of work. She had a love for it and a dedication to it. One might even say that helping others through this fire department was a calling for Robin.
“Many have commented on how driven she was to do an excellent job. She was firm in her leadership and she knew when she spoke to you that she meant business … yet she had compassion. Compassion for her fellow firefighters and EMS personnel and a compassion for those she encountered in her line of duty,” he said, adding, “Many of you here today have benefitted from her help.”