'Your watch is over': Firefighter in sevice for 35 years remembered

Published on Tuesday, 8 April 2014 00:33 - Written by Kenneth Dean, kdean@tylerpaper.com


“That was Jim.” 

Those were the words Smith County Assistant Fire Marshal Oren Hale said repeatedly about his friend and colleague, County Fire Marshal Jim Seaton, who died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Seaton, 65, who had served as the fire marshal since 1999 was in the fire service for 35 years, was remembered Monday during a service at Green Acres Baptist Church.

Hale was one of several speakers who recounted stories about Seaton, who was known by all as a prankster.

“When you least expected a joke, he was the one with one,” Hale said of his friend.

Seaton, a former U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam, was born in Marshall in 1948 and got his first taste of firefighting in the late 1970s.

Stories were aplenty Monday of how Seaton pulled up to the Dixie Fire Department on a chopper with a long pony tail.

Other speakers included County Judge Joel Baker, Sheriff Larry Smith, Carmen Gardner and Brad Burger.

Smith said Seaton, on the first time he met him, drew close and asked what he was doing.

“He said he was looking for the lobotomy scar I had to have to become a federal agent,” said Smith, who was working as an ATF agent at the time. 

Burger called Seaton an American hero who always was working to ensure the safety of his family, co-workers, firefighters and county residents. 

A procession of dozens of fire and police vehicles along with personal vehicles stretched for more than a mile and tied up traffic along Loop 323 as it made its way from Green Acres to Tyler Memorial Cemetery on Texas Highway 64 West. 

At the cemetery, VFW veterans fired a 21-gun salute, Marines and fire personnel presented the family with U.S. flags, an East Texas Medical Center helicopter performed a flyover and Smith County dispatch conducted the last call, which sounded over the radio, “521 (Seaton’s call number) your watch is over.” 

Hale, who worked with Jim for years, said, “When it was time to laugh, he made sure we did. When it was time to work, he made sure we did. We’re going to miss a great friend.”