Dedicated. Friendly. Helpful. Committed. A loyal friend and passionate professional. Those are just some of the many words and thoughts that came to mind as the community remembers longtime Derby firefighter and EMT instructor Charles W. Little, who passed away March 7.
"I never ever had a problem with him the whole time I knew him," said former Fire Chief Pat Swaney. "I doubt that anyone else had a problem, either."
Little's enthusiasm for his work and the city was unquestionable, Swaney said.
"He was dedicated to the fire service."
That, along with his ever-present spirit of helpfulness to the man known to everyone simply as "Charlie," made him memorable.
"If you asked for anything he was there to help. He was that kind of guy," Swaney said.
Little, a longtime Derby resident, died at age 64 after an unexpected illness. He had his friends, family and, of course, his treasured tribe of fellow firefighters at his passing.
Little was a constant presence at the big alarms – and the little calls, too, but ones that were just as important.
Swaney recalls the time Little helped deliver a baby on an emergency run, putting his EMT training to good use.
There were numerous accidents where Little helped victims, and although Swaney didn't have the EMT expertise Little did, Swaney never felt like he was in the way and did what he could to help him.
Little served as a firefighter for 37 years, was an EMT instructor for 30 years, and also a state EMT examiner for 15 years.
In his memorial, it was stated that his favorite saying was, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care," and that was a code he lived by daily.
An online memorial notice elicited numerous comments about Little, including one from Brian York, who stated he was "honored to have served with him on DVFD. Great man indeed."
Donna Terry Wilkinson said Little was "a man with a big heart," and Crystal Macedo-Fuentes said he was "one of the best instructors of all time." She added that Little was "always there to listen and make it about family."
Ted Austin, who is retired as the city's director of operations and a former volunteer with the DFD, has a lot of history with Little.
"Charlie was a great guy. He was dedicated to the medical and fire industry and the community,” Austin said.
When Derby transitioned from an all volunteer to paid staff department in 2005, Little was one of the original nine staffers. He retired when the work become too physically demanding for him, but went on to a new endeavor with his wife, Dee, and in 2014 they opened the Little Firehouse Cafe at 120 N. Baltimore, a popular breakfast and lunch eatery.
"It was one of those small-town restaurants," Austin said, "and a number of people who went to there enjoyed being with him."
Little always 'went above and beyond'
Austin's impact on "countless EMTs" in the area cannot be overlooked, either, Austin said.
"He went above and beyond with his students," Austin said.
While serious about his life-saving work, Little always was friendly and had a smile on his face, Austin said.
"He was fun to be around. He was just a good person."
The fire profession tends to be a family oriented one, Austin said, and those new to the calling figure out quickly in their first years if it's something they want to stick with or not.
Those who do, like Little, tend to grow more and more passionate about it and the extended network of relationships they form during their tenure in it.
"Charlie considered his brother firefighters and EMS as a part of his immediate family with an unbreakable bond," his memorial notice stated.
For Little, the combination of love of family, friends, his community and his work, especially his EMT teaching, all rolled into one piece that made him a special individual and someone who made his presence felt in Derby, say friends such as Swaney.
"That was just part of his make up," Swaney said.