Family, friends pay tribute to firefighter whose death is presumed to be work-related
Members of the Spokane Valley Fire Department bid a final farewell to Capt. Mark Normington Friday, standing in a line and saluting as Normington’s urn was carried from the Hennessey Valley Funeral Home to Valley Engine 4.
The department was joined by firefighters from as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, for the standing-room-only memorial service.
“Mark looks down on us today from a better place,” said his brother, Rick Normington. “We know we will see him again.”
Normington, 58, died Aug. 10 after a four-year battle with multiple myeloma cancer. His cancer is presumed to be related to his work but has not been officially ruled a line of duty death.
Normington was an ordained minister who was a part-time youth pastor and worked the night shift at a sawmill before he joined Valley Fire in 1986. He was described as a devoted family man who attended the sporting events of his three sons and daughter and was sometimes their coach.
The Rev. Jared Horton said he grew up in Normington’s house as a friend of his three sons. Normington was always up for a game of basketball or baseball or a bit of wrestling, Horton said.
“If he was not an Olympic wrestler, he should have been,” he said. “Mark never lost.”
Normington was diagnosed with cancer in October 2010. He received a stem cell transplant in May 2011 and was in remission for more than two years. He was able to come back to work for a few months, but retired in June 2012. The cancer returned in December 2013.
During Friday’s memorial service, firefighters traded stories about Normington. Capt. Pat Schaffer said he was on Normington’s crew for nearly two years.
“After each run he’d critique and see if we could have done it better,” he said. “It drove us crazy, but it was fun. What could you do? He was right.”
He was known for his experience running pumps, Schaffer said. “If anybody had a question, they knew who to ask,” he said. “He was that good.”
Retired assistant fire marshal Terry Thompson had worked with Normington for several years. He recalled how Normington was devoted to his job even during times when he was taking care of sick family members.
“Mark still came to work every day and took care of business,” Thompson said. “He took care of his crew. Mark was my friend. That’s one friend I’m glad I had.”
His son Spencer played the guitar and sang “Blackbird” by the Beatles during the memorial, though Normington had always jokingly said he hated the song. “He supported his kids in everything,” Spencer Normington said. “He supported me in my music.”
Normington and his first wife, Valerie, were divorced shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer. He married his second wife, Vicki, in 2011 and brought her three daughters into the family. One of his step-daughters, Danielle Read, tried to sing “Just the Way You Are” during the memorial but couldn’t finish.
After the service Read said her step-father could make her laugh.
“He was an amazing husband, amazing father and amazing grandfather,” she said. “He was a dad to all my friends. If you met him, you were related.”