Final salute: Chelsea fire chief honored in funeral service, procession

The life of beloved Chelsea Fire Chief Wayne Shirley was celebrated in a funeral service and procession on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 15.

Family, friends and numerous fire service members from Chelsea and nearby cities gathered at the Pelham Civic Complex to pay tribute to Shirley, who died Thursday, Aug. 6 at 53 years old after battling a chronic health issue.

“Friends, family and loved ones, I’m happy to tell you all today that even though he may have lost his life here on earth, he has found eternal life in Jesus Christ,” Gregory Dawkins, Shirley’s nephew, said in his opening remarks.

Dawkins said when he thinks of his uncle, he thinks of Shirley’s love of God, his obsession with Florida State University’s football team and his commitment to firefighting, the profession Shirley chose at a young age.

Pelham Fire Chief Tim Honeycutt, one of Shirley’s cousins, said Shirley joined the newly formed Chelsea Volunteer Fire Department when he was just 15 years old.

He went on to join an Explorers program at North Shelby District and worked at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, Cahaba Valley Fire District and Shelby County 911 as a dispatcher, Honeycutt said.

In addition, Shirley was an adjunct instructor for the Alabama Fire College and a contract instructor for the National Fire Academy.

Shirley had served as Chelsea’s first and only municipal fire chief since 2001.

Honeycutt said Shirley was dedicated to his family, his Christian faith and his Chelsea Fire and Rescue colleagues, who he bragged about often.

“He wanted the very best for you,” Honeycutt said. “He also wanted the very best from you.”

During a phone call while Shirley was in the hospital, Honeycutt said Shirley asked him to “check on my guys and make sure they’re OK.”

“Here is your fire chief, in the hospital, in a tremendous amount of pain, and he’s worried about you,” he said. “On the Chelsea Fire Department logo, it says ‘Service Before Self.’ That was Wayne Shirley in a nutshell; he wanted to serve others. From a young age until his last act as fire chief, he was serving others.”

Chaplain Steve Wallace said Shirley also had a passion for chaplaincy work and expanding the program at Chelsea’s fire department.

Bronson Moore, pastor at Church of the Highlands Greystone Campus, where Shirley attended, offered a message and instruction during the service.

Pallbearers were Tommy King, Andrew White, Josh Rossetti, Chase Armstrong, Billy Ricketts, Jacob King and Ricky King.

Honorary pallbearers were Bobby King and Tammy Wolfe.

Honor Guard included Andrew White, Josh Rossetti, Zack Lee, Taylor Gunnels, Chase Armstrong and Billy Ricketts.

After the service, a lengthy procession of fire engines and emergency vehicles departed from the Pelham Civic Complex and passed various fire stations along the route to the gravesite at Liberty Baptist Church in Chelsea, where Shirley was laid to rest.