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Former Gainesville fire chief Hamrick dies at 87
Sug was chief for 20 years
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Verner "Sug" Hamrick

Former Gainesville Fire Chief Verner "Sug" Hamrick will be remembered as "a firefighters' chief" according to those who worked for him.

Sug (pronounced "Shug" like "sugar") Hamrick died Thursday at Northeast Georgia Medical Center; he was 87.

Hamrick went to work for the Gainesville department as a firefighter in 1947 and became chief in 1971. He served in that role until his retirement in 1991.

The former chief was the brother of Gainesville City Councilman Bob Hamrick.

Four firefighters who worked for Chief Hamrick still serve the department.

One is Deputy Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough, hired by Hamrick in 1984. Yarbrough said the chief was remarkably approachable, even to the rookies.

"Most young firefighters don't just conversate with the chief," said the deputy chief, who recalls being called to chat with Hamrick about everything from Yarbrough's status in the Army Reserve to good barbecue joints.

Hamrick was well-liked by his subordinates, the deputy chief said, because of gregariousness and concern with getting the best safety equipment for his firefighters.

Current Fire Chief Jon Canada came to the department as a young firefighter in 1993 after Hamrick retired.

Still, Canada said he got a chance to know Hamrick through the years as the old chief visited the department.

"From a chief's perspective, I can definitely appreciate his tenure," Canada said. "Twenty years is a long time to be a chief at a department. I think that's a great legacy he left. Both he and chiefs before him, they paved the way and made great strides for people like me to come along."

Canada has served as Gainesville's fire chief since 2008.
Perhaps even more impressive is Hamrick's overall 44-year tenure with the department.

"That is about like the horse and buggy," said Gainesville Battalion Chief Mitch Aiken, who was also hired by Hamrick. "I've got 28 years under my belt, working on 29. You won't see another man do 40. It would be rare in the future for a man to do 30 or 35."

Funeral services for Hamrick are scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Gainesville.

The family has requested that current and former Gainesville firefighters serve as honorary pallbearers and to assemble at the church at 1:30 p.m.

 

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