Arthur Linch served Eatonton 1969-2002
When former Eatonton Fire Chief Arthur Linch died on Nov. 9, the local brotherhood of firefighters not only lost their former chief, but their friend.
Linch joined the Eatonton Fire Department in 1969 and served the community for 33 years, retiring in 2002 as fire chief.
“He’s one you hated to see retire and leave the brotherhood because he was such a big part of the fire department,” Eatonton Fire Chief Eugene Hubert said.
After battling cancer for six months, Linch died peacefully at home with his family. A graveside viewing, visitation with family and funeral service were held at Pine Grove Cemetery Saturday, Nov. 14. The casket was taken to the cemetery from Vining Ivy Hill Chapel funeral home atop the city’s old 1939 fire truck, surrounded by the firefighters who served as pallbearers. The firetruck stopped in front of the fire station on West Marion Street, where Hubert, who was driving, rang the truck’s bell. Linch’s family followed immediately behind in their personal vehicle, and other firetrucks and firefighters stayed behind them along the route.
Fifteen minutes before the funeral service, a Lifeflight helicopter did a flyover in the sky above the cemetery in honor of Linch. Members of the EFD’s color guard folded back the flag from the coffin for the viewing. The firefighters all wore their dress uniforms.
“Regina (Linch’s wife) told me he would’ve loved all of it,” Hubert noted afterwards.
Hubert and Putnam County Fire Department Chief Thomas McClain, Milledgeville Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Wren Marshall and former Putnam Fire Rescue Chief Shane Hill all talked about how they wouldn’t be where they are today if not for Linch.
“He didn’t push, but he encouraged us,” Hubert explained as the others nodded their heads in agreement. “He’d always tell us, ‘It won’t be long and I’ll be gone and y’all will take over.’”
The firefighters said Linch always paid attention to detail and taught all the new firefighters not only what to do, but why each step was important.
“And he was always interesting in keeping up with the new measures,” Hubert said, and told about how they attended and completed hazmat training at Safety Systems in St. Augustine, Florida. “Arthur closed his business up for two weeks to go down there and do that,” he added.
Both Linch and Hubert had their own auto repair shops in Eatonton, and Hubert said they would call each other to discuss a problem they were having with a repair job, and they also borrowed each other’s tools.
“I’d do for him and he’d do for me,” Hubert said. “And he didn’t ever cuss because he was a Christian. We would all, with our wives, go on vacation together sometimes. So, he was not only my chief and my fellow firefighter, but he was my friend.”
That sentiment was echoed by Eddie Williams to the family on the Vining website: “Arthur will be missed by many in this world. A lifetime of love and dedication was his way in life.”
Brian Burgamy said when he started as a 911 operator in 1990, Linch was the first fireman that he met.
“He always had the most humble spirit,” said Burgamy, who still works part-time as a dispatcher with Eatonton Police Department and also is the deputy director of Putnam County’s Emergency Management Agency under Sheriff Howard Sills.
“He had a heart for this community and a heart to serve others,” Burgamy added. He described how he frequently saw Linch “sprinting down the road to jump on the firetruck” when the tone was sounded. “I absolutely loved him dearly. He was a joy to be around and was sincerely one of Eatonton’s finest as far as fire services are concerned.”
According to his obituary, Linch earned an agricultural engineering degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, served in the Army National Guard, operated Linch’s Garage for 49 years, and was an avid sportsman and hunter. His family described him as being faithful, attentive and selfless.
He is survived by his wife, Regina; children Alison, Daniel and Meredith; and grandchildren, Abby Kate and Jeremiah.
“Arthur was an excellent firefighter, and excellent assistant fire chief, an excellent chief, and more than that, he was my friend. It’s heartbreaking.”
– Eatonton Fire Chief Eugene Hubert