BUXTON — More than 100 people are expected to gather Thursday to mourn and honor Bernard Groves, a dedicated firefighter in Buxton and a longtime driver for United Parcel Service.

Mr. Groves died Sunday after a brief fight with cancer. He was 68.

Mr. Groves joined the Buxton Fire Department in 1985 as a volunteer firefighter at the town’s Groveville station. He worked up the ranks and became a captain in the early 1990s.

“He was an all-around great guy,” said Deputy Fire Chief Merlyn McLaughlin, a longtime friend. “He was like a brother to me. When he couldn’t run on calls, we would go around town and help other people. Bernie was that way.”

Fire Chief Bruce Mullen said Tuesday that Mr. Groves was respected by the firefighters and well-liked in the community.

“I have to assume that he was one of those guys who put his heart and soul into it,” Mullen said, noting that he met Mr. Groves only a few years ago. “He was so dedicated. He was one of the most well-liked guys around.”

In September 2002, Mr. Groves was critically injured while testing hoses on a fire truck. A coupling that was holding two hoses broke and hit his head. The pressure from the water knocked him to the ground and caused serious injuries to his head, liver and arm. He underwent three craniotomy procedures to remove debris.

Months later, Mr. Groves returned to the department in a limited capacity. He did office work and some grant writing. He also inspected the fire extinguishers in all town-owned buildings. In recent years, he was the assistant director of the Emergency Management Agency for Buxton.

In his early years, Mr. Groves was a delivery driver for United Parcel Service. He worked for UPS for more than 30 years, retiring at the age of 55.

Mr. Groves is remembered by his family as a dedicated family man who had a passion for life and lived it to its fullest.

He was married to Audrey Groves for 33 years. He leaves her and two children from his previous marriage, and a son from his wife’s first marriage.

Audrey Groves spoke about their life together, fishing and snowmobiling at their cottage in Lexington Township, criss-crossing the United States in their motor home and fulfilling his lifelong dream to travel to Alaska.

The Groveses enjoyed spending time at their camp, where Mr. Groves liked fishing, riding his all-terrain vehicle and snowmobiling. “He was an outdoors person,” his wife said.

“He was out on his ATV one time and ran into a bear,” she said. “He turned around and scooted out of there so fast.”

In recent years, Mr. Groves often went fishing with his son Charlie Groves of Durham, who described his father as a positive and outgoing guy who was generous with his time and talents.

The younger Groves said his father was a skilled woodworker and helped him with renovations to his house. He also helped build the fire department’s Groveville station and did projects around the town hall.

“He loved to do projects like this and he was very good at it,” his son said.

Mr. Groves got sick in July. His doctors discovered an aggressive form of cancer. He died at home, with his wife by his side.

“I’ll miss his smile, his infectious laugh and his good-heartedness,” she said. “He had a heart as big as the world.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at [email protected]