By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: September 28, 2018 | 2:50 p.m.
Vick, a stalwart of Southside Virginia’s public safety community, dies after cancer battle
VIRGINIA – Sussex and much of the close-knit community of Southside Virginia are in mourning as they come to terms with the death of Sussex’s first-ever Public Safety Coordinator Eddie Vick, who passed away earlier this month after a battle with cancer at the age of 61.
Vick was well known across the county and, through his nearly 15 years as Stony Creek Volunteer Fire Department’s Fire Chief, he became a fixture in the county as he gave his all to protect the lives of those who lived in and worked in the county he called home.
That passionate dedication to public safety led to Vick becoming Sussex’s first Public Safety Coordinator, allowing him to take his efforts to a larger scale, but all with the same goal in mind – keeping people within Sussex County’s borders safe while also ensuring the county’s public safety resources were available to help their neighbors, a fact that stood out to Sussex County Administrator Vandy Jones as he reflected on his time working with Vick on a regular basis.
“Eddie was much too young to go, but he leaves behind such a great legacy in Sussex County,” Jones remarked. “He believed in public service and he had a commitment to the community and he did all he could to improve the community in which he lived.”
Jones continued, “His organization skills and bringing all of the entities together in the public safety realm and getting people to work together were unparalleled.”
In his service to Sussex County, the husband and father of three was known for building relationships, not only those for emergency preparedness and response purposes but personal relationships that led to lifelong bonds being built between Vick and many people within and beyond Sussex County, something Sussex County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Keith Blowe affirmed.
“Eddie was just an outstanding person, first of all,” Blowe said. “That carried over into his work and his work ethic and his love and dedication to our county.”
The wife of late public safety coordinator Eddie Vick, Shelia is joined by Sussex Board Chairman Susan Seward and Vice-Chair Keith Blowe after supervisors passed a resolution honoring him after his death earlier this month. (Terry Harris)
Reflecting on the first time he met Vick, Blowe shared, “I first met him in 2010 when I was retiring from the military and we were finishing up our house here in the county and, actually that is when I started working with him because I had served as a director of public safety in the military, being responsible for fire, police and rescue and all of those elements. So I began working with him at that time as we were working through and developing the plans for Sussex County when there is a disaster-type situation. And he had already been working in this area for some time, but I was happy to work with him and it was clear to me that he knew what he was doing and we were fortunate that we had him serving in that capacity here in the county.”
Last Tuesday afternoon, Vick’s family and friends were joined by decorated members of several different public safety arms from across Southside Virginia and beyond during a funeral service at Owen Funeral Home in Jarratt, all touched by Vick in some way, shape, or form. Among them, Dinwiddie Fire and EMS Director Dennis Hale was in attendance and shared his personal thoughts on the passing of someone he considered a dear friend.
“Eddie was one of the most down to earth, straightforward guys and a consummate professional all the time,” Hale said. “We had a lot of common interests so I remember calling Eddie and talking five minutes about what we needed to talk about professionally, then we would spend about 30 minutes talking about hunting and fishing.”
Hale added, “Eddie was a great friend to me and a great friend to a lot of people and he is going to be terribly missed in Sussex for what he gave to that county, his time and his energy and his talents. We are going to miss him in Southside Virginia because he has been a stalwart for all of us.”
That bond between what Hale and others call “The Tri-Cities and Tri-County” area of Prince George, Dinwiddie, and Sussex was evident as he and others paid their respects to Vick and offered their condolences to his family Tuesday, a bond that is evident through the regional responses to disasters but the everyday interactions between the three cities and three counties.
“None of us are big and none of us can do it on our own and this relationship we have, knowing we have to lean on each other and we will lean on each other and we know that we can call any one of us and we will step up,” Hale remarked. “It was a very cohesive group and Eddie was an important part of that group.”
Serving as the leader of the county’s public safety efforts for nearly two decades, Vick led the county through some of the Commonwealth’s most well-known disasters, including the devastating effects of Hurricane Isabel, overseeing the response to the impacts from Superstorm Sandy as it moved up the East Coast in 2012, to most recently, the deadly Waverly tornado that killed three people in February of 2016. Among the first on the scene in Downtown Waverly was Vick as helped triage the situation and coordinate the county’s response and eventual recovery.
Having just been sworn in as a supervisor on the Sussex’s local board a month prior, Blowe said he was impressed with the response by Vick and his work with local, regional, and state agencies in the midst of a chaotic situation in the heart of the county.
“When the Emergency Operations Center was established in Waverly, by the time I got there, Vick was there and it was clear that all his coordination and prior relationships with other emergency services in our surrounding counties and throughout the state were coming to the fore,” Blowe shared. “I couldn’t believe it when people who were saying they were from the state as they were introducing themselves, they all already knew Vick and Vick knew all of them.”
“It was amazing how he knew everyone and everyone knew him,” he continued. “His sense of organization and the prior coordination that is required when something like this happens was very evident to me and that is what is so critical when there is a disaster.”
When he was not overseeing the response to a disaster, Vick was always actively working to make sure the county was ready when one may occur, spending time in the community engaging with residents and staff across the county, while also constantly reviewing the county’s plans and making needed changes to stay ahead of the curve, something Blowe took notice off during his times working with Vick.
“He was dedicated, he knew his business and he constantly worked toward improving the county’s disaster response for residents,” Blowe remarked. “Again, because he was the first person we had in that position, we had a lot of work to do and his dedication came through very clearly because the early stages was about educating and making sure our citizens understand it is not a matter of if a disaster would occur, it’s when a disaster will happen in our county.”
“It is a constant effort,” Blowe continued, “And it was clear that was important to Vick and his dedication, no matter how difficult the process, he constantly and consistently worked to improve Sussex’s overall recovery and response posture in the county.”
For many, the phrase “enduring legacy” goes hand-in-hand with Vick as they all said the impact he left on, not only Sussex County, but the entire region and the personal relationships he fostered over the years will last for decades to come.
“Eddie gave his all to Sussex County every day,” Dinwiddie’s Hale remarked. “He is going to be hard to replace,” with Vice-Chairman Blowe echoing those sentiments.
“He will have a lasting and enduring legacy for the concern and love that he displayed and shared for all those who encountered him and there is no doubt he truly always had the best interests of this county and its citizens when he was working to improve our overall posture,” he said.
“We all will truly miss him but he will live on in our memories for a long, long time,” Blowe closed.