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Flags fly at half-staff for Vandenbroek Kaukauna firefighter who died from COVID-19

Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 2:20 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 28, 2021 at 10:12 PM CST
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OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Flags are flying half-staff Wednesday for a Vandenbroek Kaukauna firefighter who died after contracting COVID-19.

Stephen M. Smith passed away on Dec. 20. He was 54-years-old.

Smith received his diagnosis on Nov. 27 after contracting the virus in the line of duty. He passed away at a hospital.

“We extend our sincerest sympathies to Steve’s wife and kids, his friends, and his colleagues as they grapple with his tragic loss,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “To those who knew him, Steve was a good friend and someone who cared deeply about others, and he will be missed by the many whose lives he affected.”

A firetruck carrying Smith’s remains arrived at a church Tuesday.

“It’s a very big loss. Very big. It’s going to be hard. He will be greatly missed,” said Chief Ron Young, Vandenbroek Kaukauna Fire Dept.

Smith spent 28 years with the Vandenbroek Kaukauna Fire Department.

“It’s a huge loss for everybody, for the fire station, the firefighters, for the community. He volunteered for Walleyes for Tomorrow, Dave’s Muskie Club. In fact, he was an usher here at Holy Cross Parish. He just did so much,” said Jerry Meulemans, retired firefighter.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson issued a proclamation calling Wednesday “Stephen Smith Day.”

“This is the least thing we can do. The least thing is to recognize the service, recognize the contributions, of those brave men and women who don the uniform and are out there,” said Nelson.

Young said, “What a great man, what a great father, what a great husband. I’m proud to know him.”

“He will be greatly missed by all,” reads a post on the department’s Facebook page. “Rest easy Steve, we’ll take it from here.”

“Steve took great pride in the ability to help others. He had so much more to give, and so many more adventures to undertake,” reads an obituary.

On Tuesday night a Vandebroek Kaukauna fire truck carried the remains of Smith to Holy Cross Church in Kaukauna where a visitation took place that Fire Chief Ron Young tell us, was emotional.

“It’s a very big loss. Very big. It’s going to be hard. He will be greatly missed,” he said.

Fellow firefighters say he took great pride in helping others.

“It’s a huge loss for everybody, for the fire station, the firefighters, for the community. He volunteered for Walleyes for Tomorrow, Dave’s Muskie Club. In fact, he was an usher here at Holy Cross Parish. He just did so much,’ said retired firefighter Jerry Meulemans.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson also issued a proclamation calling Wednesday, “Stephen Smith Day.”

Nelson added, “This is the least thing we can do. The least thing is to recognize the service, recognize the contributions, of those brave men and women who don the uniform and are out there.”

The focus now is on healing.

“I think it brings everybody back to ground zero, central, what’s really important in life, don’t take anything for granted,” Meulemans said.

Young said, “What a great man, what a great father, what a great husband. I’m proud to know him.”

Smith is survived by his wife and daughters and extended family.

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