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Fallen District Fire Chief Chauvin honored through procession

LAPLACE — Colleagues of fallen St. John the Baptist Parish District Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin say he is the person they would have called upon to plan the perfect funeral for one of their own.

Spencer Chauvin

Spencer Chauvin

This week, they had to do it for him.

Chauvin, who was struck and killed by an unlicensed driver Sunday morning while working a crash scene on Interstate 10 was laid to rest Thursday in ceremonies full of honor and tradition.

Flanked by motorcycle escorts, the fire truck holding Spencer Chauvin is led onto Airline Highway.

Flanked by motorcycle escorts, the fire truck holding Spencer Chauvin is led onto Airline Highway.

Tradition was important on this day, said family friend St. John Parish Lt. Chip Wale, who helped oversee the ceremony. But there was no precedent. Chauvin is the first St. John Parish firefighter to die in the line of duty.

“Spencer would have been the guy to do all of this,” Wale said. “None of us knew what to do. We had to call the State Fire Marshal’s Office and we just took what we wanted to use.”

With the ladders from the town of Zachary and Livingston Parish waving a giant American flag outside, Chauvin’s body lay in state inside the St. John Parish Community Center Thursday morning. Throughout the day, hundreds of mourners made their way past to pay their final respects, representatives from police and fire units near and far, all decked out in their finest dress uniforms.

More than 100 fire department trucks and vehicles head west on Airline Highway.

More than 100 fire department trucks and vehicles head west on Airline Highway.

The gear Chauvin was wearing Sunday morning — his unwashed jacket, helmet, boots and tools — were on display on one side; a ceremonial firefighter’s helmet was on the other.

Constantly watching over Chauvin’s casket were a pair of sentries, one holding a fireman’s ax, the other holding a pike pole.

The services at the Community Center ended with the traditional bell ceremony, signifying the end of Chauvin’s watch and the playing of bagpipes.

“He specifically said that he wanted bagpipes to play at his funeral,” Wale said. “We made sure we got him bagpipes.”

Indeed, a group of a dozen members of Pipes and Drums of New Orleans played “Amazing Grace” as Chauvin’s casket was carried from the Community Center to the fire truck, draped in black bunting, that would carry him to Edgard for a funeral Mass and burial in the church cemetery.

Daniel Perret is another colleague and a lifelong friend of Chauvin’s. The two grew up together, were junior firemen together and joined the department together. He is among the many who have talked about how selfless and helpful Chauvin was.

“He was always the first to volunteer,” Perret said through tears. “When the local 4-H lady called, he said we’d go. That’s how I met my wife.”

When Perret and his wife Kelly married, Chauvin arranged for his friend’s bride to arrive on a fire truck.

“Everything he did, he did it over the top,” Perrett said. “He’s the guy we would have counted on to do this. He would have made sure everything was done just right and it would have been over the top. He would have been the only one of us strong enough to read the Fireman’s Prayer.”