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Dennis Cauthen was trying to help fellow firefighter Randy White find the right word. White was describing how it felt for the Elgin Volunteer Fire Department to be one of several fire departments trying to save the blazing historic Lancaster County Courthouse that early Aug. 4 morning in 2008.
“Honored,” said Cauthen, fire chief. “We’re honored to have helped the city (of Lancaster) and other departments save the courthouse.”
That term pretty much describes Cauthen’s demeanor. For more than 30 years, he has unselfishly given of himself to help the community. That’s what he was doing on Tuesday morning as he and other volunteer firefighters fought a house fire on 15th Street. Cauthen became ill and died just a short while later.
Cauthen’s death sent ripples of shock across the community. He was well-known and well-liked. In addition to his 31 years in fire service, Cauthen, who owned Williams Floor Covering, was active in his church, St. Luke Methodist, and a Boy Scout leader.
“When you think about all he was involved in – his family, his business, his church, the Boy Scouts, and the fire department, someone like Dennis Cauthen cannot be replaced,” said Rudy Carter, a Lancaster County council member and fellow firefighter.
Carter said he felt for the family, but he also felt for fellow firefighters.
“He went above and beyond the call of duty with everything he did. I know one thing for sure, there is a hurting family and a group of firemen who really need our prayers right now,” Carter added.
That was pretty much reflective in a somber press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Lancaster County Council Chambers. Fire Marshal Stephen Blackwelder released what details his knew of Cauthen’s death and answered questions for the media.
Cauthen’s death was a huge loss, Blackwelder told the group.
“This is a devastating loss for that family obviously, the fire station and the community,” Blackwelder said.
Cauthen, who graduated from Lancaster High School, followed in his father’s footsteps as a firefighter and basically grew up in the fire department. Cauthen was not only the fire chief he was active in training other firefighters.
He was also instrumental in helping local Boy Scouts earn their Eagle Scout awards.
Several people have shared condolences with Cauthen’s family on the funeral home’s guest book.
“It was such a shock to hear about Dennis,” one person wrote. “He was not only a cousin, but also a good friend, mentor to our children, family man, community leader and Christian. Lancaster and the Elgin community’s loss is heaven’s gain. May God be with all his family, friends, and colleagues as we grieve his loss.”
We echo all the well-deserved accolades given to Cauthen.
Cauthen said he felt honored to serve his community. We’re honored he served.