By JOHN FLOWERS
BRISTOL — Hundreds of Bristol residents were expected to bid a final farewell to Fred Jackman on Wednesday morning in a very public salute to a dedicated public servant, shrewd businessman, WWII veteran and iconic figure in Addison County’s firefighting community who died on Saturday at the age of 84.
The outpouring of grief and gratitude was not to be confined to solemn processions, wakes and funeral speeches off Bristol’s Main Street, however. Scores of seniors, needy residents and kids throughout the five-town area whom Jackman quietly helped over the years have privately mourned the man who had lent them a helping hand.
“Fred did an awful lot for an awful lot of people,” recalled Harland Wendel, one of Jackman’s lifelong friends and fellow member of the “old farts club” that meets every morning at Cubbers Restaurant to chat about years gone by and current events.
“He was really quite an exceptional person.”
Jackman was born in Lincoln on July 4, 1924, and graduated from Bristol High School in 1942. He would join the U.S. Army during World War II, serving in the Asian theater of operations.
Upon his return from the war in 1946, Jackman would make two decisions that would greatly influence his life: He partnered with his brother, Glenn, and his father, Glenn Sr., to operate Jackman’s Coal and Coke Co. (which would later become Jackman’s Inc., a successful local fuel business); and he joined the Bristol Fire Department.
Jackman remained a member of the Bristol Fire Department until his death, an amazing 62-year-run during which he served 33 years as an officer and 14 of those as chief. His twin brother, Ralph Jackman, remains a legendary figure on the Vergennes firefighting scene.
Jackman’s interest and passion in firefighting extended beyond Bristol’s town line. He was an avid volunteer with both the Addison County Firefighters’ Association (ACFA) and Vermont State Firefighters’ Association (VSFA), and held the distinction of being a lifetime member of both organizations.
“It was a commitment beyond anything you see today,” former Bristol Fire Chief Mark Bouvier said of Jackman’s devotion to firefighting activities.
It was Jackman that suggested Bouvier become an instructor with the VSFA.
“I probably would never have gone into teaching without his encouragement,” said Bouvier, who this month marks his 35th year with the Bristol Fire Department.
Jackman’s duties with the department abated somewhat as he got older, but he remained keenly interested in the organization’s activities — in spite of his disdain for some of the new equipment that he thought was replacing “hard-nosed” firefighting, Bouvier said.
For example, Jackman was disappointed when the department acquired a “master stream device (also known as a deck gun),” a piece of equipment that is often fixed to the firetruck and can direct a lot of water on a fire location from a hefty distance. Bouvier recalled that Jackman thought hose toting firefighters were best suited for the job.
“I used to kid him that I’d have two deck guns at the entrance of the cemetery” when Jackman passed away, Bouvier said with a chuckle.
Bristol firefighters were scheduled to hold a special procession as part of Jackman’s funeral.
“He was always willing to help someone in need and was always there for the department when it needed him,” current Bristol Fire Chief John “Peeker” Heffernan said.
Indeed, Jackman’s good deeds went far beyond the firehouse, according to those who knew him well. He served as a Bristol Village Trustee for two decades; was a member of the American Legion and Bristol Rotary Club; and delivered Meals on Wheels.
His friends recalled him as a gregarious, fun-loving character who also had a quiet, compassionate side. Jackman often bought food for the elderly, helped young entrepreneurs get into business and gave rides to church to those without transportation. Jackman recently made a very generous donation to a renovation effort at St. Ambrose Church in Bristol.
“He did a lot of things people don’t know about; he didn’t like to blow his own horn,” recalled his longtime friend Alan Clark. “He delivered fuel to people (in need) and didn’t send them a bill.”
Clark, Jackman and 10 other area men jointly purchased a deer camp they enjoyed for many years. Jackman visited the camp for the last time this fall.
“He really enjoyed camp, though he never hunted deer a day in his life,” Clark recalled, noting that Jackman was content to play cards and socialize.
A complete obituary for Jackman appears here..