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Courage of a hero – Fire department honors Phil Campbell man who died of muscular dystrophy

By Nicole Burns for the FCT


It’s not every day a big red fire truck escorts a funeral procession, but this was no ordinary man being buried.

He never fought fires, but he held the courage of a hero. He never rescued anyone from danger, but his resilient spirit pulled those around him out of the muck of life. Friday, Oct. 16, John Huey of Phil Campbell died at 26 years old.

For much of his life, Huey was confined to a wheelchair. Huey lived with Duchenne, a form of muscular dystrophy. To hear those closest to him tell it, he never viewed himself as a victim. Many of the stories shared at his funeral service last Wednesday spoke to a young man who could change someone’s perspective because his optimistic outlook on life was so infectious.

Firefighters and children with muscular dystrophy have had a longtime friendship. Terri Wilson, Muscular Dystrophy Association Executive Director, said she called Haleyville Fire and Rescue as soon as she heard of Huey’s death. “My first phone call after hearing about John’s passing was to Chief Phillip Weaver,” said Wilson. “They never hesitated. They said they would do whatever the family wanted.” Weaver and several firefighters attended Huey’s service, serving as escorts as well as pallbearers.

“John was like one of us, just like a firefighter, since he was a little boy,” said Weaver. “We wanted to do something for him. He loved this fire department, and we loved him.”

Many local fire departments will hold annual fundraisers for MDA, such as “Fill the Boot.” Huey and his family became very close with many people at the MDA. As a child, he attended MDA Camp each summer, telethons at WHNT in Huntsville and special events organized by MDA and its sponsors.

Despite his physical limitations, Huey lived. Stories of talent show rock star moments and wheelchair races through the halls of PCHS were all memories that proved that this young man took advantage of every moment he was given. The impact of his life will continue to ripple through those who knew and loved him – a true testament of Huey’s resilience.

The next time someone sees his her or local fire department standing at an intersection collecting money in a boot, it may be that Huey’s story will inspire them to grab what they can and help fill the boot – for all the “Hueys” still living with muscular dystrophy and fighting for each moment.