On Saturday at the Wells fire station, people stand at attention as prayers are said in remembrance of Wells Fire Chief Wayne Vetre, who died Friday after a battle with cancer. Vetre’s widow, Jackie, is second from right. Dina Mendros/Journal Tribune

WELLS — Although he served the town of Wells for only three years, Fire Chief Wayne Vetre made an indelible mark on the fire department he led. On Saturday, town officials, residents and the firefighters turned out to say a final farewell to the much respected chief, who died Friday.

At about 1 p.m. Saturday, a convoy of about a dozen vehicles, including firetrucks, a hearse carrying Vetre’s body, and a police escort met at the Maine Turnpike exit in Wells as Vetre’s body was transported home from Boston, where he died. The convoy drove from the Wells exit to Bibber Funeral Home in Kennebunk. On the way, the convoy made a brief stop at the Wells Fire Station on U.S. Route 1, where a prayer was said, firefighters and others stood and saluted, and Vetre’s widow, Jackie, cried softly.

Wells Fire Chief Wayne Vetre Sr., left, died Friday in Boston of cancer. He is pictured with his son, Wayne Vetre Jr., who was recently promoted to lieutenant with the New Haven, Conn., Fire Department. East Haven Fire Department photo

Vetre was diagnosed with lung cancer about one year ago, Wells Town Manager Jonathan Carter said after the brief service. He put up a good fight and for a time it looked like he would win the battle, Carter said. Vetre, 57, died Friday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

According to Carter, Vetre was coming up on his three-year anniversary as Wells fire chief. He was hired in August 2016.

Vetre came to Wells from Guilford, Connecticut, where he was deputy chief, Carter said, and had worked as a firefighter for about 30 years. According to Carter, Vetre retired from his position in Guilford but came out of retirement to work for Wells.

“He wanted to have a chief’s position,” Carter said. “He vacationed up here and he liked it.”

Carter praised Vetre and the job he did for the town.

“He was a consummate fire chief,” Carter said. “He lived and breathed being a firefighter. He worked 24/7. … He worked on his laptop until last weekend.”

“He wouldn’t sit still,” Carter said. “(His illness) wouldn’t get him down until it had.”

In addition, Carter said, Vetre “brought a different flair of fire professionalism to the town which his personnel embraced.”

Like Carter, Wells Fire Capt. Jeff Nawfel had nothing but praise and kind words for his former chief.

“He was very dedicated,” Nawfel said. “He was certainly a workhorse. The man worked here long hours, on weekends.”

“He was willing to help anyone who asked,” Nawfel said.

“Vetre was always a joy to talk to,” Nawfel added, “He had a wealth of knowledge” that he was always happy to share.

Under Vetre’s leadership, Nawfel said, the fire department became better equipped to do its job. During Vetre’s tenure, he said, the town acquired two tanker trucks and a new lead engine. In addition, the chief was “heavily involved” in the planning of the new public safety building, which will house both the fire and police departments and is currently under construction. Carter said the completion date is scheduled for late August.

In addition to the town of Wells, fire departments elsewhere also remembered Vetre.

The East Haven, Connecticut, Fire Department, where Vetre previously served from 1992 to 2001 before he moved on to be the assistant chief of the Guilford Fire Department, offered its “sincerest condolences” on its Facebook page.

On its Facebook page, the Guilford Fire Department wrote: “Wayne was a founding member of IAFF Local 4177 and was instrumental in making the GFD into what it has become today. Our deepest condolences to his entire family during this difficult time.”

Other area fire departments also paid their respects to Vetre. Members of the York Fire Department, along with fire companies from South Berwick and Berwick, were stationed on the I-95 overpasses to honor Vetre as his body was escorted from the hospital in Boston.

But those who worked with Vetre most recently are most deeply touched by his loss.

“We’re a much better department for having had him,” Nawfel said. “He’s going to leave a void. He will be sorely missed.”

Dina Mendros can be contacted at 780-9014 or at:

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