Members of the Portland Fire Department and firefighters across the region will gather Saturday to mourn and honor the passing of one of their own.

Dean Cressey, a respected Portland firefighter and retired captain of the city’s Munjoy Hill fire station, died Sept. 30 after a fight with cancer. He was 65.

Mr. Cressey joined the Portland Fire Department in October 1973. He rose through the ranks to become lieutenant at the Bramhall fire station, Engine 6, in the city’s West End. He went on to serve as captain of the Munjoy Hill station, Ladder Co. 1, retiring on Jan. 31, 2004.

He was remembered by Portland fire officials Thursday as an aggressive firefighter who knew his job and did it well.

Assistant Fire Chief Keith Gautreau said he was a hard-nosed firefighter who led by example.

“He was one of the guys that everyone looked up to,” Gautreau said. “He fought fires in the 1970s and 1980s, sometimes two fires a night. He had that hands-on knowledge and experience. No one ever went over his back, meaning he was the first guy in and the last guy out.”

Rich Merrill, who joined the Portland Fire Department in 1990, said Mr. Cressey was his lieutenant. He remembered the day they responded to a two-alarm fire in a vacant building.

“It was a building we shouldn’t have been in,” Merrill said. “Dean didn’t care. It was all about putting the fire out.”

Merrill said Mr. Cressey was highly respected in the department.

“He was the guy you wanted to be around when things were going bad,” Merrill said. “He always found the seat of the fire.”

Phil McGouldrick, captain of the Munjoy Hill station, said he joined the fire department just before Mr. Cressey made captain in 1993. He said Mr. Cressey was a mentor to him and many others.

“He was very confident, yet had a calming presence during emergencies,” McGouldrick said. “He earned respect by leading from the front. He would never ask you to do something he couldn’t do himself. He led by example.”

Fire Chief David Jackson said Mr. Cressey was dedicated and passionate about fire service.

“He was definitely a hands-on leader,” Jackson said. “He was truly dedicated to his brothers in this industry.”

Mr. Cressey had strong roots in Portland. He grew up in the city, the second oldest of four children. He was a brother to Gail Cressey of Arizona, Randi Burnell of Raymond and Kathleen O’Connell of Portland

Mr. Cressey was a loving father of two children, Kendalee Farris of Falmouth and Derek Cressey of Windham.

His children spoke openly Thursday about his love for family and his brothers in the firefighting community. Farris said he was always there for them. She said when she lived in the South, her father would drive all night to visit her or bring her something she needed.

“Whatever I needed, he was always there,” Farris said. “He took care of his guys, just as he took care of his kids. Everyone he loved, he loved so much and so deeply. You knew it. You knew if you were special to Dean Cressey. I was so lucky to be his daughter.”

Derek Cressey said he and his father were best friends. He shared stories Thursday of riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles together and taking trips to Laconia Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire.

He said they went to Patriots games every year and did a lot of boating together. He said his father helped shape him into the man he is today.

“He was just incredible,” his son said. “Everywhere we went, he was so loved and respected. All the firefighters have been coming over, telling me how he taught them how to fight fires. He was the craziest of them all in how he would go right into the fire to save someone. There was no fear. He wasn’t afraid of anything.”

Mr. Cressey was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. Soon thereafter, he retired from the fire department and bought an RV to drive across the country.

He responded well to treatment, so he went back to work as a transportation security officer at the Portland International Jetport. He worked there for the past eight years or so.

Leslie “Lucy” Long, a good friend, said the highlight of his life was being a firefighter, a father and friend to so many.

“He was an outstanding hero and a gentleman,” she said. “When he was sick in the hospital with sepsis, he shuffled out of bed and got a blanket and put it over me because he thought I was cold. He was so thoughtful. He was always smiling. He was good for a laugh.”

Mourners will gather at 1 p.m. Saturday at A.T. Hutchins Funeral Home, 660 Brighton Ave., Portland, to pay tribute to him. A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bruno’s Restaurant and Tavern in Portland.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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