Andrew Sherriff still expects to meet up with his best friend on their way to calls for the local fire department; to see him putting on his gear beside him. He was one of the first people on the scene when Paul D’Andrea was in a fatal accident while riding his motorcycle last Tuesday afternoon, and as difficult as that was, Sherriff said he would have regretted not being there even more. “He passed away doing something he absolutely loved.”
He expressed how his friend’s untimely passing, at the age of 30, was a huge blow to Paul’s family, friends, the fire department, and the community.
“He was my best friend, my brother and he’s going to be missed. You can’t replace number 11,” said Sherriff. “We were brothers and we were inseparable. It’s a big family. When one of your brothers passes, it’s a huge loss.” Sherriff was so happy that he was able to hang out with Paul last Monday night. “He was a huge part of this department and everybody loved him.”
Along with Nick Buckholz, the friends and firefighters were known as the three musketeers. “All the stories and memories are definitely something we’re hanging onto.” Sherriff said he spent a lot of time with Buckholz after the accident - hanging out with him, having lots of laughs and trying to stay positive. “That’s how Paul would want it.” Everyone was looking out for each other. “If anything, it’s brought this department closer than it was before.” Sherriff is still waiting to hear Paul’s bike pulling in. “We’re still waiting to wake up.” He emphasized that the lines of communication were open and continue to be. The guys were texting, calling and helping each other out. “We’re all going to get through this together.” Help was also made available through Emergency Medical Services and Victim Services of Middlesex County.
Sherriff said that Paul was amazing, driven, knowledgeable, kind, caring, compassionate, funny, selfless, and always thinking of others first. “Paul was always the first guy to point out if you did something wrong at a call, but was also the first guy to make sure you were OK.” Sherriff recalled that Paul was competitive and always trying to one-up everyone, but all in good fun. He said he worked out a lot, trying to make himself better to serve the community better.
“The camaraderie we all had was awesome,” said Sherriff. “The door [at Paul’s house] was always open for anybody.”
Paul was a pipe insulator by trade, but it had long been his dream to be a full-time firefighter. He took his job seriously. “He loved the fire department more than almost anything.”
Paul was well-known in the community, having lived in Dorchester for a long time. He had been with the Dorchester station since 2014 and enjoyed participating in firefighter competitions. There has been an overwhelming show of support for Paul’s family – from his relatives and his brothers at the Thames Centre Fire Department. The firefighters are very thankful to everyone for the outpouring of emotion. Tears were shed while they tried to remain strong. The flags flew at half mast and the sign out front of the station simply read “11.”
The department will recognize Paul’s contributions and retire number 11. His bunker coat will be put on display under glass.
Many different organizations that Paul was involved with and people he had met, as well as those who didn’t know him, expressed their sorrow when hearing of his passing, including Big Brothers and Sisters of London and Area. Paul and his little brother, Robert, had just celebrated their three-year match anniversary. They stated on their Facebook page: “Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area, along with Robert and his family extend condolences to Paul’s family along with our appreciation for the gift of mentoring that Paul bestowed upon his little brother and our community. We will always remember what Paul lived through his volunteering, that mentoring relationships can have incredible impacts on children and youth in our community.”
During his eulogy, Thames Centre Fire Chief Randy Kalan said: We get out of bed at 3 a.m. to risk our lives to save people we have never met, and never ask for a thank you. This group… this team… this family, inclusive of Paul, did not and does not do it for any other reason except that they wish to make a difference.
In June 2014 at the recruit graduation, Kalan asked Paul and his new fire family members to remember what it is to pledge to be a firefighter: “They needed to promise concern for others, a willingness to help all those in need… to promise courage - courage to face - and conquer their fears. Courage to share and endure the ordeal of those who need you. They needed to promise strength - strength of heart to bear whatever burdens might be placed upon them… strength of body to deliver to safety all those placed within their care. They needed to promise the wisdom to lead, the compassion to comfort, and the love to serve unselfishly whenever called. Paul always delivered. Paul was always there.”
Paul was given a fitting sendoff on Saturday, with a procession following his funeral at Bieman Funeral Home. His casket was lifted up onto an antique firetruck borrowed from the Ingersoll fire department. Sherriff carried his best friend’s helmet and many firefighters and emergency service workers, family members and friends joined the procession down Hamilton Road to Dorchester Road, ending at the FlightExec Centre for the celebration of Paul’s life. The family and firefighters gathered back at the funeral home to say their goodbyes in private. Kalan said he was extremely moved when Paul’s mother Dorothy called him over and said to him, “You have to tell my son we have it from here.”