TUNKHANNOCK — A procession with dozens of ambulances and fire trucks carried an EMT off to burial Wednesday afternoon in Wyoming County.
Tom Gruen was killed in a crash last week on his way to help at another wreck.
The community of Tunkhannock and rescuers from all over gathered to say thank you and farewell.
The uniform of a rescuer sat on top of Tom Gruen’s casket as it was carried to a Tunkhannock ambulance. For years he rode it to help save lives. On this day, it took him off to his final resting place.
What followed was a community send-off to a man who dedicated much of his life to helping others, a procession that carried Tom Gruen through the heart of Tunkhannock, the place he loved, the place that clearly loved him back.
“I think it’s wonderful. He deserves all the respect. He’s a hero. The firefighters, ambulance workers, they are willing to risk their lives every day, so I’m very happy with what they’re doing for him,” said Nichole Howell of Tunkhannock.”
Gruen died trying to help others, killed in a wreck on his way to assist at another crash.
Nichole Howell brought her children to pay tribute and learn a little lesson in how people make a mark in a community.
“I think it’s a great lesson for them about the respect for the firefighters, the EMS and all that.”
Many came to watch as this procession led Gruen’s casket and his family through the community to a flag draped arch on the edge of town. That was how Gruen left Tunkhannock for the final time, a gateway serving as a tribute to all he did to help others here.
“Terrible loss, terrible. In Tunkhannock he’s really going to be missed. My kids call me the mayor of Tunkhannock but if anyone was it was Tommy,” said Sonny Greene.
It wasn’t just Tunkhannock saying goodbye. Dozens of ambulances and fire trucks from all over the state, even New Jersey followed along in the procession, showing the family of rescuers share in this community’s loss.
“It means a lot. It’s a really sad day for the whole community. He’s been a friend of my dad since I was a little kid and it’s just a really, really sad thing,” said Brandy Walsh.
The procession took Tom Gruen off for burial at Lake Winola.
The family is asking any donations in his name be made to the Tunkhannock Ambulance Association or Tunkhannock Assembly of God church.