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story.lead_photo.caption At the time of his retirement, Hyde told the Fulton Sun that he expected to continue visiting the firehouse. According to his colleagues, he made good on that promise, frequently dropping by. Photo by Submitted by North Callaway Fire Protection District

When he saw a lack of fire protection in rural Callaway County, Harley Hyde was a part of the solution.

Forty years ago, Hyde was one of the founding members of the North Callaway Fire Protection District where he served as chief.

The longtime firefighter died Jan. 27 at the age of 76. During a memorial service Wednesday at 54 Country, friends, family and many Mid-Missouri firefighters honored Hyde's memory.

Hyde was a cornerstone at the department, inspiring those who worked with him over the years with his passion for firefighting. He retired from the North Callaway department in 2012.

He left the volunteer department in the hands of someone he'd inspired years ago, Chief Lana Karhoff.

"Harley was a friend and mentor and someone who changed my life tremendously," Karhoff said in an email. "I had never thought of being on the fire department and Harley asked me one day to join. After some consideration I decided to give it a try. And now, 25 years later, I am the chief. I have made a life of helping others and I can thank Harley for giving me the direction to do so."

At the time of his retirement, Hyde told the Fulton Sun that he expected to continue visiting the firehouse. According to his colleagues, he made good on that promise, frequently dropping by.

"He cared deeply about the department and his firefighters," North Callaway Fire Station 1 Captain Matt Walton said in an email. "We always felt like family to him. His respect and love for his department and community is something that you can not put into words. That love and respect is something we all try to live up to every day and every call we run."

Hyde was born on Sept. 1, 1944 to Tilford and Edith Hyde. He married Judith (Lee) Hyde in 1963 and the couple had three children. Eventually, he would come to have eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

He worked in a variety of jobs before joining the Columbia Fire Department in 1971, where he served as a fire engineer until 2001. His volunteer efforts in Callaway County began with the founding of the North Callaway volunteer fire department in 1980.

As a volunteer fire fighter, Hyde kept a radio with him so that he could lend his assistance during emergencies. First responders often have to deal with tragedy, but sometimes the get to take part in happy moments as well.

Hyde thrilled his grandchildren with stories of his fire-fighting adventures, granddaughter Brandi Hassien said. Once, Hyde and a partner rushed off to respond to what they thought was an overdose.

When they arrived, they found that the emergency wasn't an overdose, but one of those happy moments instead — Hyde found himself helping to deliver a baby.

Over the course of his fire fighting career, Hyde saved many lives and kept letters from those he helped.

Hyde collected antique toy fire trucks and his other passions and hobbies included history, woodworking, gardening and watching racing.

"I feel like his best quality was that he never missed a moment — he was always present," Hassien said.

When he wasn't thinking about fire-fighting, Hyde was devoted family man and fishing buddy.

"As a grandfather, he taught us to 'eat like a pig,' made us laugh with constant jokes and made sure to tell us he loved us and was proud of us every single time we were together," Hassien said. "He was our lunch date, our taxi man when we were younger and our protector."

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the North Callaway Fire Protection District or the Fire Fighters Memorial in Kingdom City.

"He wanted to be remembered most for the work he did with the fire departments and the life he gave his grandchildren," Hassien said. "He loved his dear friends and was a fireman until his last breath."

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