Marietta Salutes Fallen Firefighter
Lonnie Nutt is the first Marietta firefighter to die in the line of duty, Chief Jackie Gibbs said.
Marietta firefighter Lonnie Nutt was as humble as they come. And while those who knew him said he never missed an opportunity to help somebody, he never expected anything in return. He worked silently and never sought the spotlight.
But Tuesday called for a celebration of life for the Kennesaw man who died of a massive heart attack Thursday while responding to an automobile accident on Whitlock Avenue.
As Marietta Fire Cmdr. Merv McDonald said midway through his colleague's funeral at Roswell Street Baptist Church, Nutt, the first Marietta firefighter to die in the line of duty, is "getting the attention that he deserves today."
That was evident nearly two hours before the start of the 11 a.m. service when members of the Patriot Guard Riders waited in the cold with American flags to salute Nutt, who started his career in the Air Force as a firefighter and EMT.
It was evident when firefighters from across metro Atlanta came to pay their respects to a man simply because they were bonded by a calling that puts them at risk everyday.
And it was evident inside the sanctuary when Pastor Ernest L. Easley read a letter from Gov. Nathan Deal and Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin stood on the pulpit and called Nutt, an Oklahoma boy who shied away from attention, a hero.
"Firefighter Nutt departed this life living and serving," he said.
He joined the Marietta Fire Department on May 16, 1994, after a stint at the Albany Fire Department. Chief Jackie Gibbs said Nutt "really hit the ground running" because he wasn't afraid to try new things.
He served as a firefighter, an inspector, an investigator and finally, a firefighter engineer.
"Lonnie was one of those kind of guys who always did the extra piece," Gibbs said. "He was always looking for the next thing to do, always learning something and at the same time always teaching something."
He quickly became a mentor to young or new firefighters.
"He came to them first," said McDonald, Nutt's officer. "He would try to get to them early in their career and start molding them. And I know that he did that often."
And he was full of ideas.
"If Lonnie Nutt saw something he didn't like," Gibbs said, "Lonnie came in and in his way, he would say, 'Why are we doing this this way?' or 'I've got an idea to do something better.' That made him a pleasure to work with and that made him a joy to work with because that sense of improvement, that sense of accomplishment, that sense of challenge was always Lonnie."
It was a trait that Nutt displayed until his last shift. The morning of March 7, he spent countless hours organizing and making Engine 53 more efficient.
"That's his professional side," McDonald said. "Always paying attention to detail. He spent each shift ready to work, ready to go, no questions asked. He took his role on our crew seriously."
His commitment was not only evident on Engine 53. It was apparent at home, too. Nutt loved his wife, especially her cooking. His colleagues said he wouldn't stop talking about her around the station.
"As a crew, we eat together," McDonald said. "We build relationships with each other during that time of eating together. I'd come to Ronnie and say, 'Hey, that's one of the things that I like.' He said, 'Hey, that's fine. I'll eat with you, but I'm not giving up Rosa's cooking. And there was no exception there."
Rosa Nutt spoke of her relationship with her husband toward the end of the service.
"When I would wake up in the morning, I would thank God for giving me one more day with my love," she said. "... Our love was pure and true. Everytime he would leave for work, he would kiss me and tell me that he didn't know if he would return because of the dangers of his job. He lived life like it was his last day."