LITTLETON - The outpouring of support Sunday afternoon at Dal Bobbitt’s wake wasn’t surprising for those involved. In Littleton Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Perry Myrick’s estimation, the fire station serves the community by answering calls. And the community responds by serving the department with its support, as was palpably displayed Sunday with an overflow crowd gathering to say goodbye to the local fire chief.
“In the volunteer world, the community has to support the fire department just like we support them in their time of need,” Myrick said. “The roles are reversed right now. They are behind us. They’re lifting us up, whether in prayer or a shoulder to cry on - whatever it is.”
The death of Henry Dallas “Dal” Bobbitt IV came unexpectedly, sending shockwaves through the department of 22. He had been the current chief of Littleton VFD for several years and one of the longest-tenured members of the department at 35 years.
Bells rang marking the end of Bobbitt’s tour of duty with the fire service, bagpipes played and the Buddy Isles Tire and Automotive parking lot was packed with fire and emergency vehicles from all over Halifax, Warren and Northampton counties. Volunteers traveled from Hawtree, Garysburg, Enfield, and elsewhere to pay their respects. Ladder trucks from Warrenton Rural and Weldon fire departments were parked on either side of the fire station, with their ladders extended and American flags hanging from their buckets across Main Street. At 4 p.m., the ceremonial final call came from Halifax County emergency communications, resounding from pagers and radios around the county in Bobbitt’s honor.
“He was our leader,” said Bryant Pitchford, a Littleton VFD captain. “He was the fire chief. He was our leader. We’ve got to pick up the pieces - it’s definitely a hard blow to our department losing anybody, but when you lose your leader, where do you look to the top? He’s not there now.
“We can’t go to him and ask him, ‘How do we do it?’ We don’t have that. It was a vital resource that’s gone. We can’t just call him on the phone and say, ‘How do we handle this?’ It’s a big void.”
A similar void will be left with the Buddy Isles Racing Team, which parked a couple of its race cars outside of the fire department during the wake. Bobbitt loved racing and was an integral member of the nearby team.
“He was all about the famous flying 11 from Littleton,” Pitchford said. “It went all the way back to Jack Tant. He always had a big heart for racing.”
Buddy Isles Sr. watched the crowd gather Sunday afternoon from across the street, helping to manage the parking. Isles, a former Littleton VFD chief himself, said Bobbitt was the “do anything for you” type. It applied to the fire service. And it applied to racing. Bobbitt rarely missed one of Buddy Sr.’s races and continued on assisting with Buddy Jr., helping two generations of drivers strap in the cockpit, or anything else that needed to be done around the track.
“He was a big part of Buddy Isles Racing,” Buddy Sr. said. “We’re really going to miss him.”
Myrick said Bobbitt would have appreciated Sunday’s pageantry, but might have thought it to be overdone. Bobbitt was always quicker to action than words.
“He always said you have to get on with living,” Myrick said. “If the fire pager went off, he’d want us to get up and go.
“Just like any department, we’ve had tough calls. In the past, we’ve had tough calls and he’d say, ‘We have to get back on the truck and let’s go.’ That’s how he was. He was a man of very few words, but he was about doing and helping neighbor, citizen, brother, sister - anybody.”