At age 82, Douglas Marks is suffering from emphysema and dementia, and his wife Maxine has had to call 911 countless times.
So much so, that the local fire rescue team are practically regulars at the house, said Maxine.
“I think every shift has been over there, I think every fireman has been in our house,” she said.
Every time the firefighters stopped by, they just stayed long enough to do their job, then went on their way.
But that all changed when they realized who Douglas was.
One day, one of the elderly couple mentioned that Douglas himself used to work for Dekalb, and the fire rescue workers’ interests were piqued.
“Once we found out he worked for Dekalb, that’s when we were drawn in,” said firefighter David McBrayer.
Then they realized he used to work for the same fire department—and that he is the oldest living former firefighter from the county.
Douglas is also a Korean War Army veteran, and he worked at the fire department after he came back. He was made the first paramedic in the county, and was the 38th hire to the department.
He was hired back in 1960, when it was just a small team.
“At that time, they had 32 employees and it was just one big family,” said Maxine.
When the firefighters realized who Douglas was, they knew they had to help him as if he was their own.
“Even though we didn’t work with Mr. Marks, we have that bond with him,” said Captain Shane Jones. “We know what he did, because we’re now doing the same thing.”
The Marks’ house had been falling into disrepair—the roof had a hole in it, the walls weren’t insulated, and the floor was worn and old, among other things. The elderly couple couldn’t do the work themselves, and so the firefighters picked up the slack.
Some firefighters came over on their day off to renovate the house—fixing the roof and flooring, installing a wheelchair ramp and a new deck.
It was a touching gesture for the elderly couple, who live alone and appreciate the help.
“I gave them a hug, because they’re like my family too,” Maxine said.