By Steve Dunn/Gate City Managing Editor Monday, November 7, 2005 (Scene of fatal fire that took the lives of 3 children-and 3 heroes) Nearly six years after three Keokuk firefighters died while trying to save three children in a duplex fire, a memorial was dedicated to them in Rand Park in Keokuk Saturday. What we dedicate today is a memorial not only to Dave McNally, Jason Bitting and Nate Tuck, but also to the spirit of sacrifice, duty and honor embodied by all who put on the uniform of a fireman, a policeman or a member of our armed forces, said master of ceremonies Mike Hickey. For in that simple but complex act of putting on that uniform these men and women are saying to all of us, Rest easy, I will protect you.’ Three new heroes have been added to the list of heroes, Mayor David Gudgel said. Unlike our heroes of days gone by such as Babe and Mickey and Hank who we idolized on the fields of competition, and unlike our heroes Roy and Gene who mesmerized many on the silver screen, these three new heroes earned their distinction by exhibiting true compassion, true duty and true sacrifice, indeed giving the ultimate sacrifice, Gudgel said. One side recaps the events of the fateful morning on Dec. 22, 1999. The other three sides describe Asst. Chief McNally and firefighters Bitting and Tuck, with one side devoted to each man. Former Keokuk firefighter Paul Tinder of Mount Pleasant said firefighters are true public servants and comprise one of the few professions where they are required to live together for 24 hours. As a result, Tinder added, strong bonds are formed. Every fire is a learning process … Firefighters continue to strive to be the best they can be. It’s one of the most dangerous professions, he said. Every fire they face, death or serious injury may be just around the corner. Tinder, who worked for the state fire marshal’s office after leaving the Keokuk Fire Department in 1976, said McNally enjoyed the (Mississippi) river and his friends. His faith was first, then his family and his job,Tinder commented. He asked me a million code questions (on Tinder’s visits to Keokuk) to make sure he got it right. He always gave 100 percent and was extremely helpful with rookie firefighters. When not on the job, Bitting spent more time with his family than anyone else, Tinder recalled. His wife and children were always part of the conversation, added Tinder. He had a willingness to learn and enjoyed taking part in public education programs. Tuck had a passion for helping others and enjoyed coaching, Tinder said. In addition, Tuck had a disposition like a magnet and enjoyed music, sports and his family, according to Tinder. The children of the three fallen firefighters unveiled the memorial Saturday. The Keokuk Firefighter Memorial originated from an e-mail Mayor David Gudgel sent to Hickey in November 2004. He (Gudgel) suggested that I along with the families of the men form a committee and have a memorial designed, built and installed and dedicated by the spring of 2005, Hickey said. He went on to say that the city would provide a location for the memorial and suggested a budget for us. At the time, the task appeared to be a daunting one. I looked at the task given by the mayor, the time frame, the budget and thought about all the other details he had not mentioned and thought right, Hickey said. But two angels arrived on the scene shortly thereafter in the form of Keokuk firefighters J.W. Guy and Jeff Marlin. They offered the services of the local firefighters’ union to help in any way, Hickey recalled. One of the early concerns we had about the project was long term care and maintenance. The union stated it would be honored to assume that responsibility. Guy, president of the local firefighters’ union, noted 3,000 letters were sent to members of the International Association of Firefighters asking for donations to the memorial. Guy also pointed out the Worster, Mass., Fire Department, which lost six firefighters in one fire in 1999, sent representatives to the funerals of the three Keokuk firefighters. The response to the requests for contributions to the memorial was phenomenal, according to Hickey. We received checks from departments both large and small. Money arrived from Los Angeles, Denver and Dallas, Hickey said. From the East and South. Some included brief notes of condolence and encouragement. The Muscatine firefighters brought their check down to us. The bond among firefighters was evident again Saturday as firefighters from Burlington, Iowa City, Muscatine and Waterloo formed an honor guard. Firefighters from Carthage, Ill., stood in line with Keokuk firefighters, too. Other participants in the dedication included Gene Wilkerson who played Balmoral and On the Sunny Hillock; Jeanne Westby who sang the Star Spangled Banner; the Rev. Paul Connolly who gave the opening prayer; and the Rev. Dale Thomas who gave the closing prayer. The memorial was built with private funds; no city funds were used in the project.