The calls on the fire and police radio scanner were the soundtrack to Russell Dickey’s life.

As a young boy, Dickey was obsessed with firetrucks and ambulances and his scanner was always on. When he graduated from Dexter Regional High School in 1982, he fulfilled his dream and became a firefighter.

Russell Dickey Family photo

“He would have his scanner on 24 hours a day,” Laurie Folsom, the oldest of his three younger sisters, said on Thursday. “When that thing would go off, he would turn it up so we could all hear it. My mother would say, ‘Can you turn it down, Rusty?’”

Dickey, an ambulance driver and firefighter for Hartland Volunteer Fire Department who dedicated his life to serving others, died Sept. 30 from complications of COVID-19. He was 59.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 1,070 deaths from COVID-19. Dickey’s family, friends and co-workers did not know whether he had been vaccinated.

He served as a volunteer firefighter at the Hartland Fire Department for more than 30 years. Fire Chief Charles Gould said Dickey responded to most of their calls for service. He also served as hall chief for several years and took the lead on paperwork and cleaning the hall and equipment. Gould said he was highly respected.

“We’re all friends. I guess you could say we’re a big family,” Gould said on Friday.

Dickey worked as an ambulance driver in Hartland and Dexter. Kevin Wintle, a friend and the chief of police in Dexter, reflected on the calls they went on together.

“From bad accidents to sick people, Rusty was a very caring person,” Wintle said. “He cared about the town. He was always there, always positive. If I needed something on the road, he was always right there. He was a great guy. He will be missed. Anyone that got to know Rusty was very lucky.”

Dickey had worked for G&H Ambulance Service since 2019, according to his Facebook page.

“We lost a great co-worker, friend and fellow firefighter,” G&H Ambulance Service wrote on its Facebook page. “Rusty was the kind of person ready to help no matter the time of day or size of the project.”

Dickey, who grew up in Dexter the eldest of four children, never married.

Madelyn Boardman, his youngest sister, said he always looked out for them.

“Rusty said he didn’t need a girlfriend. He grew up with three girls. Rusty was a mama’s boy really bad. Boy, he would get mad at me when I called him a mama’s boy,” she said, laughing.

Boardman remembered the day she fell while ice skating and went headfirst into a wall.

“My brother carried me to the hospital,” she said. “Russ was really tall. When we were little, kids would pick on me. They would see Rusty coming and leave me alone. He was there for me.”

In the end, Dickey’s sisters were there for him. He died from complications of COVID-19 at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Boardman said she and Folsom, her oldest sister, were by his bedside when he died.

“We were dressed in spacesuits,” Boardman said. “I was really glad to be there with him.”

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