Longtime Lehman fire chief laid to rest

First Posted: 7/16/2014

State Sen. Lisa Baker called Harold Coolbaugh a tireless community servant who loved his family and who was “an unsung hero of our community.”

Coolbaugh, 74, who served as the volunteer Lehman Township fire chief for 25 years died Feb. 10 and was laid to rest Monday.

Baker and Coolbaugh were neighbors and close friends.

“Harold Coolbaugh gave so much more than he ever took,” Baker said. “His life is a legacy of service rooted in all that mattered to him — his family, community and faith.”

With Coolbaugh’s family gathered in the front rows of the crowded Richard H. Disque Funeral Home on Memorial Highway, Baker said everyone who knew him will deeply mourn the loss of “a great man, a dedicated volunteer and a good friend” who was taken much too soon and who had so much more left to offer.

Coolbaugh’s family — his wife, the former Joyce E. Headley; son, Russ Coolbaugh and his wife, Dodie, of Dallas; daughter, Pam Kantor and her husband, Joe; grandchildren, Breezy and Rusty Coolbaugh, Jessie and Lexi Kantor; nephew, Ron Coolbaugh and niece, Jane Hafford — sat quietly as Baker paid tribute to their loved one.

Baker said she asked Coolbaugh’s wife if it was love at first sight with sparks and fireworks, or a love built on friendship.

“Joyce smiled and said, ‘Lisa, it was both,’” Baker said.

The Coolbaughs were together 48 years, and Baker said their love was bonded through laughter, fun, challenges and tears.

“You adored each other and it always showed,” she said.

Baker delivered Coolbaugh’s devotion to his community. She talked of how he inspired countless young people to serve by leading by example. And Baker talked about Coolbaugh’s love of Camp Onawandah, a place Coolbaugh called his “piece of heaven.”

And Baker talked about Coolbaugh’s final days when he was hospitalized how he knew he “wasn’t gettin’ out of here.” She said he fought hard to the end with dignity.

“Last week, when he knew he could fight no more, he turned his life over to God and made peace and he made plans for those he loved,” Baker said.

Baker said she and Coolbaugh often discussed politics — often at the kitchen counter and always with an ice cold beer. She said Coolbaugh always wanted to know what was going on in Harrisburg.

Coolbaugh was buried in Lehman Cemetery, near Baker’s house.

“He asked me, ‘When I’m your new neighbor, will you still come by and see me and bring a cold beer and tell me what’s going on?’” Baker said. “Harold always offered common sense advice and great counsel. We will miss you, dear friend.”

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