A longtime supporter of Sumter Fire Department and the Sumter community, Douglas Mathis, former fire chief, is remembered as a mentor to the men and women of the fire service and anyone else who crossed his path.
Mathis died on Jan. 10 at the age …
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Mathis died on Jan. 10 at the age of 65 after battling with chronic illnesses.
He joined the fire department in 1972 after earning an associate degree in fire science and criminal justice from Central Carolina Technical College.
Throughout his career, Mathis worked his way up the ladder, serving the community on multiple levels before serving as fire chief from 1999 to 2002. He rejoined the department in 2002 before retiring a second time in 2014.
For his contributions to the fire department and Sumter community, Mathis was a two-time recipient of the American Legion Certificate Accommodation Firefighter of the Year.
According to Mathis' wife, Debbie, the former fire chief was a well-respected mentor to many people inside the department and out. People regularly referred to him using family titles such as Father and Uncle, she said.
If you were lucky to get a hug from him, you know he loved you, she said.
During the funeral service on Saturday, Debbie listened to numerous stories about how her husband helped others in the community.
"I could have listened to all of those stories," she said.
Doug's guiding nature was strong within the fire department as well as at home.
"He supported me in everything I did," Debbie said.
Mathis is survived by his wife; son, Stephen; and dog, Bogey.
He cared about his firefighters and the fire department, Sumter Fire Chief Karl Ford said.
Ford met Mathis in 1982, and both men had the opportunity to serve as fire chief while the other worked at the department.
He loved to have a good time, Ford said.
"We laughed hard, played hard and worked hard," he said.
Mathis was very passionate about the fire service, he said.
"He will be missed," he said.
Battalion Chief Joey Duggan - who knew Mathis for nearly 30 years - said he met the former fire chief in 1990 when he interviewed for a job at the department.
Mathis had a heart for service, he said. He took care of the firefighters like his family, he said.
He also had a special place in his heart for volunteer firefighters, which make up about 80 percent of the country's fire departments, Duggan said.
Mathis understood that the volunteers did not have to answer the call but served their community anyway, he said.
He was a man of his word, Duggan said.
Also known as a vehicle enthusiast, Mathis is said to have been a supporter of local car clubs and the initiatives they represented.
Todd Touchberry, general manager of Cut Rate Drugs, said Mathis was a member of multiple car clubs and attended numerous car shows every year.
He was always at the shows to buy a raffle ticket or help repair a vehicle, Touchberry said.
Cut Rate will host a car show in honor of Mathis in March 2019, he said, to raise money for Sumter SPCA.
- Adrienne Sarvis
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