A Fireman's Farewell
Firefighters turn out en masse to honor one of their brethren and his son who died in Sunday accident

Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

June 17, 2004 -- More than 100 firefighters paid tribute Thursday morning to fireman Matt Ringler and his son, Chance, who were killed Sunday in a five-vehicle crash.

A stream of fire trucks, including those of Grapevine Fire Department, Hopkins County Fire and Rescue and Brinker Volunteer Fire Department, where Ringler served as a firefighter, spanned for more than a mile from Central Baptist Church, where literally hundreds of mourners were in attendance for the double funeral service. Fire trucks from all of Hopkins County's volunteer departments as well as other emergency response vehicles and private cars were to be part of the procession to Richland Cemetery in Brinker.

Firefighter Matt Ringler was a member of Brinker Volunteer Fire Department, had been a part-time firefighter for Hopkins County Fire and Rescue and was a full-time firefighter for Grapevine FD at the time of his death.

A full honor guard was present, with firefighters from multiple agencies represented and showing respect at the 10 a.m. service. As is tradition, firefighters from Grapevine, Bonham and other area fire departments filled in for their "brothers" at Hopkins County Fire & Rescue. Brinker VFD was completely shut down beginning Sunday night, with area volunteers filling in when possible to take calls for the department.

In keeping with the tradition, these men worked around their schedules at other departments in order to donate their time so that the deceased firefighter's coworkers not only can assist the family but also have time to mourn his loss. Also, firefighters from other areas were on standby in Grapevine and at Hopkins County's volunteer fire stations so that the officers there who worked with Ringler would be able to pay their final respects.

Matthew Lloyd Ringler, 33, was a certified firefighter with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, driver-operator, certified intermediate instructor, certified rescue diver and was certified as an emergency medical technician with the Texas Department of Health.

He was also involved with the International Order of Fire Fighters Association, Grapevine Fire Fighters Association Foundation Local 3113.

The Grapevine firefighter coached baseball for eight years, including two years each in T-ball, child's minors, farm league and Little League.

Both Matt Ringler and Stan Avery, who also died in the crash along with his son, Jake, 11, were coaches for their sons' baseball teams, and were headed home around 8:30 p.m. Sunday from a baseball game in Mount Vernon when the wreck on Interstate 30 west occurred. The Ringlers, Avery and his son, Jake, along with the driver of the truck that struck them, William T. Ledford, were killed as a result of that five-car wreck.

In addition to playing baseball, Chance Ringler participated in soccer and FFA activities. He most recently attended fifth grade at Douglas Intermediate School and was preparing to enter sixth grade at Sulphur Springs Middle School. He considered Jake Avery, Jackson Massey and Caitlyn Nix his best friends.

Becky Cooper Ringler survives her husband and son. The pair are also survived by Becky's parents, and Matt's mother, his three brothers and his two sisters.

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