‘Proud’ to honour a Maple Ridge ‘hero’

Line-of-duty funeral for popular firefighter Dennis TeBoekhorst.

Hundreds of firefighters and as many as 1,000 people are expected in Maple Ridge on Wednesday to march in a funeral procession honouring fallen Maple Ridge firefighter Dennis TeBoekhorst.

His casket will be laid in the hose bed of the department’s antique fire engine to lead the parade, which will go from Memorial Peace Park to Maple Ridge Baptist Church.

The parade will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Haney Place loop around Memorial Peace Park. It will proceed south on 224th Street to Lougheed Highway, then west to the Maple Ridge Baptist Church, at the corner of 222nd Street.

The parade will include an honour guard of Maple Ridge firefighters in dark blue dress uniforms. All local firefighters have been practising their marching in the evenings for the event.

“The men and women of the fire department have been working hard to put together this service, from the newest recruits to the fire chief,” said Maple Ridge Fire Chief Howard Exner.

“I’m proud of our efforts. It’s well placed, and so well deserved for Dennis and his family.”

Neighbouring fire halls have confirmed their attendance. Based on the experiences of other departments, between 500 and 1,000 firefighters from around B.C. and even out-of-province are expected for the funeral.

Police and paramedics also attend for the funeral of a fellow emergency responder.

A service will follow at 10:30 a.m. in the church, with speeches by union president Dave Harcus, Exner, Mayor Nicole Read and a eulogy by two of his closest friends.

The service will be approximately an hour to 90 minutes long.

There will be a final walk past the casket by firefighters, then uniformed members will line 222nd Street, which will remain closed during the service, and the casket will be driven between the uniformed ranks. It will proceed north to Dewdney Trunk Road to Maple Ridge Cemetery.

It is the first fatality considered a line-of-duty death in the history of the local fire department.

The graveside service will be for family only, but friends and the general public are invited to line the parade route 9:30 a.m., and to attend at the church service at 10:30 a.m.

“Dennis had a lot of friends in the community,” said assistant fire chief Michael Van Dop. “There will be a lot of people interested in saying their final good-byes.”

He said the church will hold an estimated 1,100 to 1,200 people, and the service will be livestreamed for those who cannot attend the church in person.

TeBoekhorst suffered a massive heart attack on Oct. 21, and died in hospital on Oct. 26.

Although he was fishing when he collapsed, there is presumptive legislation that acknowledges the health hazards faced by firefighters in the line of duty, Exner explained.

He became an advocate for organ donation after having saved his young daughter Grace with a kidney transplant in 2010.

In death, his donations are said to have helped 10 transplant recipients.

In the many social media comments about his passing, the most common adjective to describe him is “hero.”

There will be road closures along the route beginning on Wednesday at 8 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made “In memory of Dennis TeBoekhorst” to help support his children, Grace and Calym, with a scholarship fund in his honour.

Donations can be made online at https://fundrazr.com/forDennis.

As of Tuesday it was more than halfway to the $30,000 goal, with over $16,000 in donations so far.

• See the city website for more details about the livestream feed of the funeral: www.mapleridge.ca.