By KALEA HALL
Edwin “Sonny” Chinowth, 77, of Poland, former Western Reserve Joint Fire District chief, was known for being first on the scene when a call came.
His calling was to serve, and, on Sunday, he answered a higher calling after a battle with cancer.
Dozens of firefighters from multiple departments, family and friends on Friday heard the last bells toll to end the call of duty for Chinowth during his funeral service.
The Austintown Fire Department and Poland closed off a portion of U.S. Route 224 and lifted the ladders for the “crossing of the ladders” ceremony while Chinowth was with fellow firefighters on a firetruck, leading the way to his final call.
“Sonny is no longer in pain,” the Rev. Michael D. Grant told the congregation at the service. “He is at home. I suppose [he is] finding people to help in heaven. Remember the service and the love that Sonny gave you.”
Chinowth was not just a firefighter. He was a servant to his community, friends and, most importantly, his family. He served as fire chief for 20 years and 50 years altogether as a member of the Poland fire service. He was a catalyst in the creation of the joint fire district between Poland Township and village, which serves as a model for other fire districts.
More importantly, he was a confidante, a listener and a mentor.
“His motto, which he shared with everyone and reminded me of it often, was family first, your job second and the fire department third,” said David “Chip” Comstock Jr., Chinowth’s successor as chief. “He continued to try and remind members of the department to keep things in perspective of what is important in life.”
Comstock took over for Chinowth in the volunteer chief position in 1997.
“It was difficult to take over for someone who had been doing this for so long and was so well-liked and respected,” Comstock said.
Outside of his dedication to the fire service, Chinowth worked for General Fireproofing Co. for 26 years, was the Poland Township fire prevention officer from 1968 to 1978 and the township zoning inspector from 1983 to 1998. He served as a member of the American Legion, the Salvation Army Advisory Board, the Chiefs and International Association of Arson Investigators and County Arson Task Force Board of Directors.
He also was an active member and usher for Poland Methodist Church. Just a couple of weeks before his funeral, Chinowth was at church serving as an usher.
His family — his wife of 52 years, four children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — were his life and main priority.
“He is one of the most amazing men I have ever known,” said Aly Jackson, Chinowth’s granddaughter. “He had so much to teach us.”
Growing up, Jackson remembered her “papa” being very proud of the fire department and taking his grandchildren to see it. She recalled him always saying, “Get off of the phone — I might get a fire call,” when she went to see him at home.
Comstock also recalled Chinowth’s love of the fire service.
“He was always the first one at the call,” Comstock said. “People used to accuse him of sleeping in his clothes.”
While he was in the hospital, many firefighters visited. One time, a call came in for the firefighters.
“He sat up and said, ‘Where’s the call?’ Comstock said.