WATERVILLE — It was a sad and solemn remembrance of a fire captain, teacher, mentor, friend and family man.

More than 600 fire and law enforcement officials from around the state, as well as friends and family, packed Centerpoint Community Church on Saturday to honor and pay tribute to Winslow fire Capt. Scott Higgins, who died Monday at 49.

It was an unexpected death, one that left his wife, Dawn, and other family members devastated, and sent the community that loved him into mourning. Higgins had no known medical issues prior to his sudden death from natural causes and the state medical examiner is looking into the cause.

Winslow fire Capt. Scott Higgins Contributed photo

Saturday was a day to celebrate Higgins’ life and share fond memories, said Craig Riportella, church pastor and chaplain for Waterville police and firefighters, and Wayne Denney, chaplain for Winslow police and fire.

Riportella and Denney described Higgins, an 18-year veteran of the Winslow Fire Department, as dedicated to his work, unselfish, caring, a loyal friend and one with an optimistic outlook and keen sense of humor.

“Being a firefighter was his passion,” Denney said. “The only things he loved more than that were his family.”

Married to his wife for 23 years, Higgins loved his family with all his heart, according to Denney. He also taught fire attack school students, was a mentor to all firefighters and a great leader, he said.

The ladder truck was his baby, according to Denney, who said Higgins was a perfectionist when it came to winding hoses and making sure everything was ship-shape.

“He wanted the station to look top-notch for the public — he was a true professional,” he said.

Denney said when Higgins, whose nickname was “Scoot,” was out for surgeries, he missed being at work and wanted to be back at it.

“He will be greatly missed, fondly remembered and never forgotten and, Scoot, I thank God upon every remembrance of you, my friend,” he said.

Fire and law enforcement officials, including police and those from the state fire marshal’s office, joined other mourners who came out on a cold, windy November afternoon to pay tribute to and remember Higgins. They drove beneath an American flag flying between Winslow and Fairfield ladder trucks in the church parking lot.

As firefighters and others saluted, men carrying a glass case bearing Higgins’ urn walked slowly into the church, led by Winslow fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez.

Rodriguez addressed Dawn Higgins and her family at the service, saying the entire Winslow Fire Department is sorry for their loss.

“Words can not begin to express the sorrow we feel,” he said, adding that Higgins’ passing leaves a huge void.

Winslow fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez, Waterville fire Chief Shawn Esler and Jim Graves, director of Maine Fire Service Institute, stand on the stage Saturday at Centerpoint Community Church in Waterville as the crowd sings “In the Garden” during the funeral of Winslow fire Capt. Scott Higgins. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

Rodriguez said Higgins was previous president of the Central Maine Fire Attack School, captain of B shift at the station, the department training officer and gatekeeper of records. He was shop steward, a gifted writer who wrote grants, he ran a Christmas tree farm and helped his wife with her kennel business, Country K-9 & Cats.

On a light note, Rodriguez said Higgins became an accomplished chicken farmer, drawing laughter from the crowd. He said Dawn Higgins requested many times that they have chickens and her husband rejected the idea and wanted nothing to do with them, but finally relented. A mutual friend happened upon a stray chicken that ended up at the Higgins’ home where it developed an interesting bond with Scott and followed him everywhere, according to Rodriguez.

Addressing Higgins’ wife directly, Rodriguez spoke seriously.

“Dawn, he absolutely cherished, loved and adored you,” he said.

Waterville fire Chief Shawn Esler described Higgins as a dear friend and said he will always be remembered for his big heart and a smile that could move a mountain. He was a man of character and compassion, loved his job and his peers, according to Esler.

“True leaders don’t create more followers — they create more leaders and Scoot created many,” Esler said.

He said he tried to get Higgins to “jump across the river” and join the Waterville department, but Higgins was steadfast in his alliance.

“In the end, he remained consistent to who he was — loyal, caring and committed to the town of Winslow,” Esler said.

Fire department ladder trucks fly the American flag on Saturday as vehicles line up to go to the funeral of Winslow fire Capt. Scott Higgins. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

Jim Graves, director of Maine Fire Service Institute, said Higgins always had a smile on his face and a warm handshake and gave big bear hugs.

“We have lost a remarkable friend, folks — one that we will never be able to replace,” he said.

Graves announced that the 2020 Maine State Fire officer academy will be dedicated in Higgins’ memory.

Leanne Mackenzie, who had known Higgins 20 years, said family was Scott Higgins’ life and “there was never a ‘step’ or ‘in-law’ in his vocabulary.”

“We can all learn from this,” Mackenzie said.

She called on mourners to honor Higgins by doing for others, as he did.

“Tap into your inner Scott, aka ‘Scoot,’ ” she said. “See a need and fill it.”

Winslow Councilor Jeff West read aloud the fireman’s prayer, Winslow police Capt. Haley Fleming commanded the Winslow police Honor Guard, Vera Maheu played bagpipes and Waterville Deputy police Chief Bill Bonney played taps.

Rodriguez presented Dawn Higgins with a folded American flag.

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