TUNNELTON — With his penchant for nicknames and one-liners, Okey Dalton, his friends said with love Monday, could be a little granddad-goofy at times.
Until emergency dispatchers toned out a house fire at 2 a.m., that is.
Until he got the report of a car down a ravine on Kingwood Pike with people trapped inside, that is.
Then, it was serious business, as he rushed to the scene to render aid.
Those friends packed the pews of Mount View Free Methodist Church shoulder-to-shoulder on the rainy, foggy day to pay their respects to Dalton, who died last week after a brief illness.
He was 78, and a lifelong resident of Kingwood Pike: “The Pike,” as it is known by the people who live there.
They laughed, brushed tears and told stories that were seriously funny — and emergency-responder, life-and-death serious — at his funeral.
Dalton had joined up with the Cool Springs Volunteer Fire Department since before anyone could remember, really. He was fire chief for at least 15 years.
He was also a successful businessman who owned and operated logging and sawmill operations with his brother Orville, whom, in Okey-fashion, was christened, “Dill.”
Which meant everybody else called him that, also.
“Yeah, Dad and those nicknames,” son Darrin said, as he threaded his way through the crowd at the church.
You know: Darrin. “Bulldog.”
“I was 2 when he started calling me that,” his son said. “And that was that.”
There was also “Mammie,” “Monkey,” “Little Monkey,” “Donna-boose” and “Hammer” — the nickname forged of pain for his grandson, Devon.
According to family lore, Okey was catching a snooze in his recliner when Devon, then a toddler in possession of toy tool kit, leveled his grandfather with a plastic-hammer pound to a sensitive area on his person.
“First Responder” was as good a handle as any to pin on Okey, his son-in-law, Jimmy Lipscomb said.
Lipscomb is a veteran Morgantown city firefighter who also serves as chief of the Brookhaven Volunteer Fire Department. When he walked down the aisle to marry Okey’s daughter, Tracy, he was wearing his full dress uniform.
He’s seen his father-in-law on the scene of emergencies of every stripe, a critical presence in a rural place where the roads are hilly, narrow and winding, with an under-abundance of fire hydrants along the way.
“A lot of times in the snow, he’d get out and plow the roads so the fire trucks could go,” Lipscomb said.
Okey’s other daughter Lee Ann remembers the phone ringing at every hour of the day in the Dalton house when she was a kid.
“All the emergency calls were routed to our line,” she said.
Generally speaking, Okey was simply wired for activity, friends said, whether that meant being mischievous, knocking back a chimney fire, or saving a life on a medical call.
If you happened to be changing a flat when Okey tooled by, you had a new addition to your one-man pit crew, they said.
If you were planting shrubs or spreading mulch, you got an extra set of landscaper-hands when Okey stopped and rolled up his sleeves.
‘We got ya, Okey’
“I’ll tell you what,” said his lifelong friend, Hubert Art, who was parking cars in the rain at the church, “Okey’s just one of those guys who is gonna be missed. I don’t know what else to say.”
Except there was something else to say.
After the hymns and the eulogies, Okey’s casket, hewn with rough wood as a tribute to his logging career, was trundled onto the back of the giant trailer attached to the giant Kenworth truck — Bulldog Logging LLC, owned and operated by the Dalton son of the same nickname.
Darrin-Bulldog was going to drive his dad to his final resting place at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on the Pike, leading a procession of cars and fire trucks from across the region.
Pallbearers carried the casket to Bulldog’s rig, where they hoisted it with the help of two Cool Springs volunteer firefighters who had shimmied onto the trailer to help.
“We got ya, Okey,” one of said, as he muscled the vessel carrying his friend. “We got ya.”