ORRINGTON, Maine — The helmet that Leslie “Les” Grover wore during his more than two decades as fire chief, his boots and his firefighter’s jacket were on display Saturday near the Fire Department’s flagpole, which flew the country’s colors at half-staff in his honor.
Grover, who dedicated 41 years of his life to the Fire Department, died early Saturday at his Brewer Lake Road home. He was 77.
“Les spent 17 years a fireman and 24 years as chief for the town,” Fire Chief Mike Spencer said Sunday.
Grover started as a volunteer firefighter in town during 1960 and took the helm in 1977. He remained at his post until he retired in 2001.
Firefighting was in his blood, said Joanne Grover, his wife of 28 years.
“He was on duty 24 hours a day,” she said Sunday. “We had a [police and fire] scanner going” all the time. “I’ve been with him on many a call, delivering coffee and doughnuts, and rolling up the hoses,” she said.
One of his five sons, Howard Grover, who is chair of the town’s Board of Selectmen, said his father was a true public servant to Orrington.
His father was a town selectman in the late 1960s to early 1970s, and drove a school bus and plowed the roads in town for many years, his son said.
“It wasn’t only fighting fire,” Howard Grover said. “It was getting them to and from work” and school.
At one time, Howard Grover joined the Fire Department and served under his dad.
“I kind of followed in his footsteps,” he said.
Another son, Michael Nelligan, said his father was a role model for him, his brothers and other young men in town.
“There aren’t enough people like him,” he said.
Les Grover operated L.E. Grover and Sons, a business that specialized in ground work and led to several of his sons becoming successful businessmen in that line of work, Joanne Grover said.
“Serving the community runs pretty deep in that family, and it always has,” said Spencer, who joined the department when Grover was fire chief.
“He was a very well respected chief in the community,” he said. “He put together the best volunteer department there was. He’s responsible for two engines and two tankers for our department.
It’s “kind of unheard of” for a volunteer department to be so well equipped, the chief said.
The Orrington Fire and Rescue Department became a full-time department several years ago, and would not have been able to make the transition without everything Grover put into the volunteer department, Spencer said.
As a fire chief he was a strong but firm leader, Spencer recalled.
“He was the type of leader who, if you knew what you were doing, he would let you do it,” Spencer said. “If you didn’t, he’d keep his thumb on you … to get you on the straight and narrow.”
In addition to serving as chief, Les Grover also was a member of the Maine State Firefighters Association, the Penobscot County Fire Chiefs Association and the Holden Snowmobile Club.
“He was quite a man,” Joanne Grover said. “He knew everyone all over the state, north and south.”
The makeshift memorial outside the firehouse will remain until his funeral, which will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the East Orrington Congregational Church, his wife said. A reception is planned at the church after his burial at Marston Cemetery.
“There will be a line of firetrucks in the procession, and he will be in the first truck for his last ride,” she said. “Firefighters will [then hold] a last call” and tone out his number over the airwaves for all to hear.
“RIP 360, your service and dedication will not be forgotten,” the Fire Department’s Web site states.
The number 360 signifies the chief of the department, Spencer explained.