AYER — Former Fire Chief Paul Fillebrown, Sr., who died on Sunday, Sept. 10 at age 82, was remembered with messages of respect, love and memorable moments from many longtime friends and colleagues in his lifelong hometown.
Born in Ayer on Aug. 2, 1941, Paul Fillebrown was one of three sons. His parents were Albert L. and Leah (Lufkin) Fillebrown. He grew up in town, graduating in 1959 from Ayer High School, where he played on the basketball and baseball teams and was voted “friendliest” member of his class.
Paul Fillebrown worked at the Hartnett Tannery after graduation and stayed on until it closed in 1961. He then moved on to a job at Boston Gas, where he held several positions, until finally finding his home at the Ayer Fire Department, where he stayed for 44 years. He retired in 1992.
Off the time clock, he was a member of the Ayer Gun and Sportsman’s Club and helped form a Saturday morning Youth Recreation League basketball program in town. He also coached youth sports teams and served as a commissioner on the Ayer Parks and Recreation Department, an elected position.
He joined the Ayer Fire Department in 1962 as an on-call probationary firefighter and became a regular member three years later.Thus he began an upward climb through the ranks. He was made acting chief in August, 1992 after his predecessor, Wellman Parker, retired and was permanently appointed as chief later that month. Chief Fillebrown retired in 2006 after a total of 44 years with the department.
During his tenure as chief, nearly every piece of the department’s firefighting apparatus was replaced with new, custom-made equipment and there were significant improvements in both department training and public education.
In addition, the department under his direction added to its full-time staff, growing from six to nine, then 12 members in all. The ambulance service, which operates under the Fire Department umbrella, was upgraded as well, attaining paramedic-level status.
Chief Fillebrown was also instrumental in securing approval and funding for the new West Main Street station, which was dedicated in 2006, shortly before he retired.
Calling hours at Anderson Funeral Home drew both an impressive contingent of uniformed Ayer Fire Department members and many others who came to pay their respects and bid farewell to a man who was well known and loved in the community for his kindness, good humor and dedication to duty.
Comments shared on the department’s Facebook page were numerous and heartfelt. He was noted, for example, for his attention to department morale and for his sense of humor.
He was called “a lovely man,” “a true gentleman,” and a “great man,” who was “loved and respected by so many” and who “did much for his department and community.”
Added to comments shared on the funeral home’s obituary remembrance page, sponsored by the Fillebrown family, the accolades roll out, name after name, like a long, red carpet.
The former fire chief earned high praise from family friends, professional colleagues and firefighters who served under him.
For example, one man said he knew Chief Fillebrown “from my time at Fort Devens” and considered him a “great chief and a great friend.” Another recalled telling the chief how grateful he was for “giving an 18-year old kid, fresh out of high school an opportunity.” Others said it was an honor and a pleasure to work with him.
Paul L. Fillebrown, Sr., is survived by his wife of 62 years, Carolyn (Campbell) Fillebrown, a daughter, Diane J. Fillebrown, a son, Paul Fillebrown, Jr., and his wife, Debra, of Ayer, two grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
Paul Fillebrown was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery last week. As one woman who commented on Facebook said: “He will be missed by so many.”