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The Newberg Fire Department veteran and chief lauded at ceremony Saturday at GFU

GRAPHIC PHOTO: COLIN ELLIS - A bagpiper begins a celebration of life for longtime Newberg Fire Department firefighter and chief Al Blodgett on Saturday at George Fox University's Stoffer Stadium.

On a warm and breezy sunny Saturday at George Fox University's Stoffer Stadium, with bagpipes leading the procession, Al Blodgett was remembered for his half century of service to the community in a variety of roles.

Blodgett, who died June 29 at the age of 80, began as a volunteer at the Newberg Fire Department, which was disbanded when Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue took over fire service in 2018.

"Al was the epitome of community service," Capt. Alex Haven said during the ceremony.

Blodgett graduated from Newberg High School in 1958 and from there joined the Newberg Fire Department in 1960. The Newberg resident, who migrated to town in 1946, continued volunteering with the fire department for nearly 25 years, all while owning and operating Al's Family Diner, until 1984, when he became a full-time member of the NFD. After working his way through the ranks, he became chief of the fire department in 2006.PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSY LOVE - Al Blodgett (center) served as a member of the Newberg Fire Department for many decades, and as chief for several years before his retirement.

Over the 50 years he served the department, Blodgett was recognized with several awards for service and leadership.

"He had a giant heart," Haven told the crowd, which included dozens of men and women in uniform sitting in chairs before the speakers; nearly half the stands behind them were filled with onlookers.

"My daughter said he was original and she was spot on," Haven said.

Blodgett was well known for his service to Newberg. In addition to his years of service to the fire department, he was involved in the annual Old Fashioned Festival and the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce. He was also dedicated to making sure the department set up Christmas lights during the holidays, often funding that himself, and was intricately involved with the department's annual Toy and Joy drive.

"Al, you will always be No. 1," Haven said.

His diner was a place where many young people had their first job opportunities. He continued volunteering at the fire department while operating the diner and didn't become a full-time firefighter until he was already in his 40s. He rose through the ranks and retired as chief in 2009, but stayed on a little longer to help the new chief transition into the role.

"Al had a youthful spirit," Haven said during the July 20 ceremony.

One of Blodgett's nephews, Brian Love, spoke of how his uncle taught him about business and the value of small town America.

"His legacy here is one of its own," he said.

He said after Blodgett died, someone kept calling his cell phone. He said he returned the call and it was a woman who wanted the family to know just how much she admired Blodgett.

"The phone call had a second purpose," he said, fighting back tears. "She was sad she had lost a friend."

"I will follow you again someday and I hope you will be proud of me," he said, concluding his remarks.

Another of Blodgett's nephews, Rick Love, said the Christmas holiday season was important to his uncle, saying Blodgett's true passion was making sure the streets were decorated with lights.

"One thing was for sure, Al loved Newberg," Love said.

Love asked all members of police or fire departments in attendance to stand toward the end of his remarks.

"I want you to know how much you are appreciated," he said.

Les Hallman, a former NFD fire chief now posted in Washington, said Blodgett made "huge contributions" to the Newberg community.

"He was a giant," he said.

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