ROCHESTER - Rochester Fire Chief Mark Klose hadn't known longtime Call Firefighter Deputy Chief and department chaplain Ron Lachapelle very long before the octogenarian came into his office last year and told him he was ready to hang up the boots.
"He came in and told me he was 80 and he wanted to retire," Klose said of Lachapelle who died Saturday at home surrounded by family after a period of failing health. "I asked him if he would help me find a chaplain to replace him, and he accepted that mission. And he agreed to stay on as chaplain until he did."
Soon after Lachapelle found a new chaplain to replace him, the Rev. Jeffrey Hunt of First United Methodist Church of Rochester.
His final task as a Rochester firefighter complete, Lachapelle retired on Dec. 31.
A pillar of the city of Rochester and a legend within its Fire Department, Lachapelle served Rochester Fire for 55 years, some 40 years as a call firefighter and 15 as chaplain.
Klose said Lachapelle was "caring and compassionate" as a fire chaplain, making sure firefighters were taken care off after any traumatic incident they'd been exposed to in the course of their duties.
Klose said in his first few months as Rochester's new fire chief Lachapelle was the same with him, asking him how he was doing as he learned the ropes.
"He knew I was an outsider," Klose said. "He wanted to make sure I was doing OK, too."
Lachapelle, whose son, Peter Lachapelle, is a City Councilor, also served many years as a Rochester Police Commissioner as well as its chaplain, too.
Lachapelle was known as "Mr. Rochester" for all of his service to the city's fire and police departments as well as his extensive community service over the years.
He was a member and past exalted ruler of the Rochester Order of Elks #1393, American Legion Post #7 and the Club Victoire. In his later years he liked nothing more than to cheer on his grandchildren at various sporting events, Klose said, adding he also loved to fish at his camp up in Errol.
Lachapelle began his career as a call firefighter in 1962. He also served 30 years as a city police commissioner from 1975-2005.
There will be two chances for Rochester to pay its respects this weekend. Family and friends may visit Sunday from 3-7 p.m. at the R.M. Edgerly & Son Funeral Home, 86 South Main St., Rochester, and a Memorial Mass will be celebrated Monday at 11 a.m., in Our Lady of Holy Rosary Church, North Main Street, Rochester.