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Woodrow VFD remembers Firefighter Joe Gillispie, wife hopes to honor legacy with life saving equipment

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 10:38 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - After fighting fires in Lubbock County for more than 25 years, Woodrow VFD firefighter Joe Gillispie died Tuesday night from lung cancer.

“God broke the mold when he made Joe,” Keith Bryant, the superintendent at Lubbock-Cooper ISD said Wednesday. Gillispie worked as a grounds supervisor in the district.

“There just wasn’t a more genuine, more kind man than Joe Gillispie,” he said.

After two decades of firefighting, doctors diagnosed Gillispie with lung cancer in 2018. He continued working and going on calls, all the way through to at least July of this year.

Described as a selfless public servant, Gillispie is remembered for his generosity, his love for family, and his service.

“Joe had a fighting spirit,” Bryant said. “I don’t think -- unless you knew that he had cancer, that he was fighting -- you couldn’t tell because, even if he didn’t feel well, you couldn’t tell. He was going to be at work, and if he couldn’t be at work he was going to be kind of directing his guys to do certain things.”

Last month, Joe’s wife Susan told KCBD about her fight to get lifesaving equipment for volunteer departments.

“It’s been quite the journey,” she said three weeks ago, “and it kind of created that passion for us, right? As the wife, I’m like ‘what can we do to make sure our firemen are safe?’”

After Joe’s diagnosis in 2018, Woodrow firefighters dedicated their 9/11 stair climb to him. At the time, he told them he would battle back and walk with them the next year.

“He was determined,” Susan said, “and it was the hardest thing he eve did, but he did. He went that next year and walked with them. It was just beautiful to watch.”

The family’s fight has been an inspiration to watch; the day before KCBD spoke to Susan about her work, she and Joe were on the way to a doctor’s appointment when the fire department got a call for service -- a 37-year-old woman with lung cancer who couldn’t breathe.

“He looked at me and he said ‘we gotta go,’” Susan recalled. “So we went, and it was so neat to see him. I knew the reason he wanted to go is because he needed to tell her ‘there’s hope. Look at me. There’s hope.’

“As they’re loading her up into the ambulance,” she continued, “he’s like, ‘you’re going to be OK, and I need you to stay strong and I need you to believe that you’re going to be OK.’”

Bryant said Wednesday it was evident Joe loved everybody he came in contact with.

Joe Gillispie was 59. Memorial services have not been announced.

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