David Sapte was remembered last week with equal doses warmth, humor, love and loss.
Not to mention a slight taste of the ribald, just as David Sapte would have liked.
Sapte, the long-time chief of the South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department and long-time resident of Gulf County, passed away late last year in his native Britain after a long battle with cancer.
Sapte waged such a stoic and simply courageous fight that some who thought of him as a friend were unaware of the seriousness of his illness until he took a turn for the worse the past couple of years.
And though there were services last year in Britain, Sapte’s Gulf County family also planned their own goodbye.
“I posted on Facebook that we wanted to do something and when we would be here and it just kind of took off from there,” said Sapte’s daughter, Anna.
And, fitting a man characterized by Rev. Geoffrey Lentz as “British to his core but also a Gulf County redneck” the response to that post and ensuing re-posts was evidenced from last Friday’s celebration of a life.
More than 60 people showed up at the South Gulf Station No. 1 to pay tribute to Sapte, not in mourning but in celebration of a life, and they came from all over, down State 30A and all the way from Australia and Canada.
“He loved it here,” said David’s widow Jan. “And he had so much fun with the fire department.
“(The chief at the time) invited David down to play with his toys one day and David spent the whole day here. Next thing you know, he was on the board.”
Sapte led the department into the modern era, into the new century.
An accountant by trade, Sapte had a gift for numbers and, his successor as chief, Nick Vacco said, squeezing every penny from a dollar.
Sapte established the department’s non-profit status arm opening revenue streams to enhance equipment.
“You can attribute all this to Dave,” said Dave Montil, his arm sweeping across the trucks and equipment the department, the busiest in the county by a significant margin, now has at its disposal.
And though short of stature, there was a command to Sapte, who several described as a natural leader and a character that drew people to him.
“He was always smiling,” Vacco said. “He loved South Gulf Fire Department, he really did.
“He was loved by all of us. He was a special person. I miss him.”
After remarks by Lentz, Vacco and Sapte’s son Ben, fire trucks blocked State 30A the distance between Station 1 and Scallop RePUBlic 500 yards away to allow Bill Van der Tulip, playing the bagpipes, to lead a procession in Sapte’s honor.
After, those who had gathered from around the world broke bread, a fitting tribute, Lentz indicated.
“David loved his country and his people but they were on other sides of the globe,” Lentz said. “Y’all were loved by David. Being part of this community was one of the greatest honors of David’s life.”