Torrington mourns death of Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Pepler
TORRINGTON — City residents are mourning the death and celebrating the life of Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Pepler.
Pepler, 43, was a Torrington native and came to his vocation at an early age, he told The Register Citizen in a 2013 interview when he was promoted to deputy fire chief. He died Wednesday morning of cardiac arrest, and had also been battling cancer.
“My goal since I was 4 years old, in Torrington, was to be a firefighter,” Pepler said in 2013. “The fire department came to my school in kindergarten and I had my picture on the front page of the Register in 1978 squirting the hose and I said to my parents that I want to be a firefighter, no different than anybody else, only I stuck with it.”
Pepler volunteered with the Torringford Fire Department at age 15, then with the Harwinton West Side Department, and was hired by the Torrington Fire Department in 1999.
The Torrington Fire Department and Local 1567 IAFF marked his passing on Facebook Wednesday, as did members of the city community and those who knew him around the country.
“Chris had a passion for training and was fortunate to travel extensively training others in Connecticut and across North America,” fire officials wrote on Facebook. “Chris became involved as an instructor at the Wolcott Regional Fire School, where he served as an Assistant Director of Training for the School. Chris has taught many classes and has touched many lives, not only in Connecticut, but also across North America elevating the level of service provided in the Fire Service today.”
Frank Hudak of Local 1567 posted a note in remembrance of Pepler on the union’s Facebook page. Pepler served as the president of the union for five years before being appointed Deputy Chief.
Hudak, a retired captain with the Torrington Fire Department, said Pepler grew up with his three sons, as they lived on the same block.
“I saw his interest in the fire service when he was 8-9 years old, and he never stopped trying to be a better firefighter,” said Hudak. “Well Chief you did it, you earned all the respect and honor being shown to you, you fought the great fight right to the end. Your love of the Lord, your beautiful family, the fire service, and love for all your fellow firefighters is now being returned to you. RIP D/Chief, you did good, and you will be missed.”
Torrington Fire Chief Gary Brunoli said Pepler’s concern for the city was paramount in the department’s decision-making, and that he worked to ensure the department and others across the country were well-trained.
“It’s going to be a big loss for the city, for the department,” said Brunoli.
Mayor Elinor Carbone expressed her sadness at the news in a note to city staff Wednesday morning.
“It is with the greatest of sadness that I deliver to you today the heartbreaking news of the death of our colleague and friend, Deputy Fire Chief, Christopher Pepler,” said Carbone. “I’ve been informed that Chris died early this morning after a most dignified and courageous battle with cancer.”
“Chris was an extraordinary person. His dedication and commitment to the Torrington Fire Department and the City of Torrington has been integral to the safety of our citizens,” Carbone said. “This is truly a great loss to our community as a whole. Everyone whose life he touched will profoundly miss him.”
The chance to be a part of his home community came easily to Pepler, he said in 2013.
“I love Torrington,” said Pepler. “I love knowing everybody. Everywhere I go somewhere, my wife often gets frustrated, what took you so long? I always bump into somebody and I’ve got the gift of gab so I have no problem talking to people.”
“He was the beloved husband of Lori (Bevivino) Pepler for eighteen years and father and best friend of Nathan Pepler,” according to his obituary.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 10 a.m. at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 78 Litchfield Rd., Harwinton. Family members and friends are asked to meet at the church.
Instead of flowers, well-wishers are asked to consider memorial contributions to the Nathan Pepler Education Fund, c/o Torrington Savings Bank, P. O. Box 478, 129 Main St., Torrington, CT, according to the obituary.
Reach Ben Lambert at [email protected]