By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TREMONT – Firemen dabbed tears from their eyes as “Taps” echoed across Altar Baptist Church Cemetery.
The men and women of Unity-Fellowship Volunteer Fire Department stood silently as the flag-draped casket of one of their own was carried to is final destination.
It was time to say their final good-byes to the 26-year-old man they’d worked with shoulder to shoulder for the past six years. Hundreds of family, friends and fellow firemen paid their final respects to Joshua Jay Wilkes – Josh to those who knew him best.
Wilkes died Feb. 13 after collapsing in a convenience store shortly after fighting a fire in Guntown. A preliminary autopsy report said the fire did not contribute to his death, according to Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine-Green. The final autopsy report is not complete.
Fire Chief Larry Williams said Wilkes was a great fireman and an even better person.
“It’s a sad day for everyone,” said Williams. “He loved his job and we all loved him. He was just a great kid. Like I said, it’s a hard day for everyone, but our guys are holding up pretty well considering the circumstances.”
Nearly a dozen fire engines led the procession from Fulton where the funeral services took place to the tiny church cemetery in Tremont where he was buried. Fireman from several area departments attended.
Wilkes’ casket was transported to the burial site on top of a Unity-Fellowship fire engine, just the way he probably would have wanted it, many of his friends and colleagues said.
Sgt. Jason Clardy, Wilkes’ best friend growing up in Saltillo, said Wilkes was one of a kind.
“Man, Josh was just a great guy,” said Clardy. “He loved his family, he loved his friends and he loved life. I can’t express how much he will be missed by everyone he came into contact with. He is just an irreplaceable person.”
Sam Washington also said he was a friend of Wilkes.
“Josh had a great sense of humor and just loved living,” he said with a smile. “Man, he was close to everyone he knew. You couldn’t know the man and not like him. That’s the type of personality he had.”
Wilkes’ immediate family included his mother, stepfather, two brothers, a sister, a stepbrother and stepsister and his nieces and nephews. But it was clear his family was more than that.
“Josh was so much more than just a volunteer fireman and co-worker to the men and women who work in our department,” said Williams. “He was a part of our family.”
Wilkes was the father of four. He had two sons, Joshua Terry and Zachary Isaiah; and two daughters, Chloe and Isabella. He was married to Tiffany-Johnson Wilkes.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.