KINGMAN - Every day is a training day.
That was the late Bill Johnston's mantra to the firefighters he trained over most of the 33 years he served with the Kingman Fire Department.
"He was everybody's friend," said Fire Chief Jake Rhoades Saturday in an emotional eulogy delivered at Lee Williams High School, where an overflow of mourners gathered to say goodbye to Johnston, who unexpectedly died Aug. 1 at 59.
Rhoades said Johnston played an integral role in bringing emergency medical services to the department and that he had a "huge reach" throughout the state. He taught CPR.
"Bill was always thinking of others," said Rhoades. "He was the epitome of servant."
Rhoades said he and Johnston bonded immediately when he took over the department last January.
Rhoades, who was pinned by his wife on the same night Johnston pinned his son, Marc, into the KFD earlier this year, said Johnston will be difficult to replace.
"He loved being a fireman," said Shari Conner, Johnston's daughter. "He never raised his voice, he never yelled. He taught us to treat everyone with dignity and respect."
Patrick Moore, chief of the Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District and a former KFD firefighter, noted that the fire service is constantly evolving, but remains entrenched in 200 years of tradition.
After the bell ceremony, Moore said, "Billy J is home."