HUNTINGTON — Huntington Fire Capt. Scott Leep said he had prepared for the last day of his 22-year career at the department to be a quiet affair.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there would be no way the 42-year-old could have a retirement party with his friends, family and co-workers. He had already loaded his gear onto the fire truck for the last time before he heard honking and cheering.
Leep’s friends at the department, along with coordination from his wife, held a surprise retirement parade for him as they drove by Fire Station 4 on April 22.
“It was very unexpected, and I had never seen anything like that before,” Leep said. “It was really cool to see all the people that came out to support me. It was a special day that I didn’t think would happen.”
Leep’s wife, Stacey, had been secretly running a Facebook event page to give her husband a proper sendoff. Together with two of his co-workers, they organized to have a fire truck and a line of cars at the station for the special day.
“I just thought it would be a good time for everybody that loves Scott to come together,” Stacey Leep said. “Scott is the type of guy that when you meet him, you love him. He really deserves the honor with his retirement.”
Scott Leep said the day was an emotional one because he knew it would be his last with firefighters who have become his family.
“It ran a million different emotions through my mind. It was rough, and it brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “I’ve lived with those guys. We eat together; we fight together; we ride together. They are like my brothers.”
Looking back, he reflected on the moment he decided to enter the firefighting career as a teen, becoming a volunteer firefighter.
“I found out from a young age that I really enjoy being a fireman and I enjoyed helping people,” he said. “It was just something that I was called to do at a younger age.”
It takes a special person to become a firefighter, he said. In a time when firefighter numbers are dwindling nationwide, Scott Leep said he hopes to inspire those special people to continue stepping up.
“There’s a whole bunch of people that have that in them, and I hope they will fill the shoes of us when we leave,” he said. “We are a different breed, firemen are.”
Looking back at his last day at the department, Scott Leep said he wanted to thank his wife, his co-workers and everyone who made it special.
His last day at the department was April 22, but he doesn’t plan to stay retired for long. Next week, he will begin a new career as a power line worker for American Electric Power.