Brotherhood and sisterhood was beautifully displayed at a funeral on Saturday for Pine Township firefighter Bradley Paul Holmes.

More than 2,000 people filled the Physical Learning Center at Grove City College, where the funeral was held for the anticipated large crowd.

More than half were firefighters dressed in uniform. They came out with friends, loved ones and people from the Grove City area in the relentless snowfall to pay tribute to the 21-year-old who died on March 5 from burns he suffered in a house fire at 132 Garden Ave. on Feb. 29.

Holmes and his teammate, Lt. Scott King, tried to save Patricia Andrews-Smith, 40, from the fire but needed to be rescued themselves after being overcome by the smoke and heat.

“I looked up ‘hero’ in the dictionary. It’s a man of distinguished courage and bravery. Brad, your picture should have been there,” said Holmes’ brother, Christopher, who is Pine’s fire chief. Their father, Joseph, is assistant chief; and mother, Deborah, works for Grove City schools.

“You’ve touched hundreds of thousands of lives for that one person,” Chris Holmes said.

Smith’s husband, Larry, survived the fire, but mourned the loss of his wife from the blaze at a funeral on Monday. Patty and Zach Dilly, next-door neighbors in the duplex, also survived the fire, which was caused after Mrs. Smith fell asleep on the couch with a blow dryer turned on.

King suffered burns on his arms and face, and was treated and released from UPMC Mercy, Pittsburgh, the day of the fire.

A 2004 graduate of Grove City High School, Holmes was an information technology student at Slippery Rock University and worked at Wal-Mart in Pine Township. He designed the Pine station’s Web site at, where entries were made since Holmes was injured and buried.

The funeral had comic relief, which was appropriate considering that Holmes was known as a “jokester, who had to get the last word in,” his brother said.

“Brad had many friends and girlfriends we never knew until last week.”

His best friend and fellow firefighter, Paul Johnson, recalled one fire where he, Holmes and a new fireman were in a house in Sandy Lake, and its first-floor ceiling came down.

When the rookie asked what they’d do next, “Brad said, ‘Don’t turn left at the top of the stairs,” Johnson said.

Johnson became a fireman because of Holmes.

While fighting fires, the pals “always had a sense of what we’d do,” he said. “Thank you, brother, for all you’ve done for me and what we shared.”

Darryl Jones, fire chief from Pittsburgh, heard many stories of Holmes.

He didn’t know the young man, but city-area firefighters were among many who kept watch with the Holmes family during their son’s stay in Mercy.

Jones heard that Holmes liked “jelly bread with the crust torn off,” he said. Holmes believed his babysitter “Mrs. Thompson,” Jones continued, “had eyes in the back of her head.”

The “mischievous” Holmes could be focused, too, Jones said.

He was told a story by a female firefighter of her first fire call with Holmes.

“She said, ‘I can’t do this.’ He said, ‘Yes you can. I’ll do it with you,’” according to Jones. “That’s a leader.”

Rev. G. Kenton Shaw, visitation pastor of Wayside Community Church, Findley Township, gave encouraging words from the Bible, and sang with his wife, Sonya, at the request of Holmes’ parents.

Pastor Allen Patterson offered scriptures about eternal life through Jesus Christ and told mourners to talk openly about their grief and memories of Holmes.

“The scripture encourages us to grieve in the community together and with family. Society would encourage us to grieve alone,” he said.

“Don’t try to replace pain with chemicals or means of escape. You can’t replace his precious life.”

Patterson asked supporters of the Holmes family not to “try and find the answers to questions that are impossible,” he added. “We can only know God is on our side and only the Holy Spirit can bring true healing.”

Following the funeral was a procession from GCC to Crestview Memorial Park in Pine Township, where Holmes was laid to rest.

Fire trucks from stations in multiple counties in Pennsylvania were in the convoy, including Pine, Grove City, Springfield Township, Mercer, Jackson Center, Stoneboro, Jefferson Township, Harrisville, Slippery Rock, Volant, Sandy Lake and Bessemer.

Also at the gathering were trucks from the Pittsburgh area and Shanksville, Pa., the fire company that first responded to United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Somerset County from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Rumor had it that a fire company was driving a truck from California for the funeral, but a blown-out tire ended the trip. The farthest known distance a firefighter traveled for the funeral was by former Grove City EMS worker and fireman Mike Mooney, who drove from Virginia.

En route, onlookers paid their respects along South Broad Street. At College Avenue, aerial trucks from Grove City and Hermitage held a large American flag, under which the procession passed.

The ceremony was beautiful, but Jones told his brothers and sisters that they needed to do more.

“What are you going to do to honor Brad?” He asked them. “Do you walk the walk of a firefighter, or are you just wearing the firefighter’s uniform?”

A common saying for professional athletes is: “He left it all at the field ... or court ... or ice,” the chief added. “They didn’t leave it all. Once the lights go off, they grab their arm candy, hop in their high-priced vehicle and go home.”

Without a multi-million dollar contract or even a paycheck, “Brad left it all,” Jones said. “He did it for commitment: to God, family and community.

“I’m going to honor Brad by emulating him.”

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