Services for Chief Steve White are Friday, Saturday

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In the late nights before Steve White died, he often had quiet talks with Ryan Whittington, who was like a son to him.

“We talked about his wife, Debbie, about the house. It was his wife, the dog and the fire department,” Whittington said, remembering how the 8-year-old dog, Kyra, was originally his.

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He noticed the bond White was developing with Kyra, and on Father’s Day, gave him the pet. Kyra often went on calls with her owner, and eagerly took on the role of mascot.

“Steve and Debbie were married 40 years. Steve took care of her. She has been an amazing woman. I’ve seen her do things that showed her strength and her abilities,” Whittington said, remembering looking at their wedding picture, at how happy they were, and noticing she had the same smile for her husband four decades later.

White, the 60-year-old chief of the Parsonsburg Volunteer Fire Department, died Thursday from skin cancer that metastasized to his brain, then spread further.

Saturday morning, members of the fire company, joined by White’s brother and County Executive Bob Culver, inside the building draped in black, honored his memory and announced funeral arrangements.

Viewing for White, a paramedic and chief for 19 years, will be Nov. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the fire department. The funeral, with full honors, will be Nov. 14 at 11 a.m. at Emmanuel Wesleyan Church.

White’s older brother, William, had tears in his eyes as he talked about how, not long before White died, fellow firefighters — his team they called themselves — drove their new fire police vehicle to his house, so he could see it.

“He saw it. He wasn’t very coherent, but he knew it was there. He worked so hard trying to raise money for us to get this,” his 80-year-old brother and only sibling, said, resting a hand on the vehicle, his voice breaking.

When doctors discovered the cancer was in White’s brain, they scheduled surgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He was accompanied by his wife and that loyal team. Nurses, sometimes doctors, would try to keep the crowd of visitors to a minimum, but White would firmly tell them the hospital had a contingency of physicians and he had a squad, too.

“He said, ‘This is my team and this is what’s going to get me through this,'” Whittington remembered.

“The community lost a leader. His wife lost her husband. I lost a father figure and a lot of us lost a a very dear friend,” said Whittington, who met White about 15 years ago, when he was a 16-year-old interested in protecting the community.

“He allowed me to do things I never thought I could do and he pushed me. He always told me, ‘Do what you want because you can do it. And don’t wait to do it,'” Whittington said.

White’s brother cried openly when he told those attending that the men didn’t have a close relationship growing up because of their age difference. Later, though, they volunteered together at the fire department and became close.

“He had a passion for youth and cadets. He drove new members to follow their dreams,” said Eric Tyler, deputy chief.

Culver called White, a county employee “tenacious.”

“He would get you off to the side after a meeting and say, ‘Now, Bob, we really need this.’ He stayed on you. We trusted his judgment and tried to make it work any time we could. We respected Steve’s opinion,” he said.

“He cared about this place,” said Jeff Willis, president of the fire company.

“I looked at some of the texts he sent to me before he died and he was still giving advice.

“He was a full-time recruiter. He cared about this place. You would have thought this was the biggest fire department in the country,” he said, smiling.

“There will never be anybody to replace him when it comes to that.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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