MEXICO – The mournful airs of a lone bagpipe pierced the cloud-dotted blue sky over Mexico’s First Baptist Church on Thursday.

Piper Denise Hurd of Andover stood at the back of a large crowd of emergency responders, family and friends gathered for the funeral service of fallen Mexico firefighter Harding Wentzell.

Wentzell, 81, captained the department’s fire police, handling traffic control. He died Monday morning of an apparent heart attack while driving in Rumford on Route 2 to a fire call at the Muskie Building on Congress Street.

Having already played “The Dark Island” when the service inside the church began at 10 a.m., Hurd piped “Going Home” when firefighters carried Wentzell’s flag-draped casket out at noon and lifted it into place atop Mexico Engine No. 1.

Two long lines of firefighters stood rigid at attention, saluting. Some mourners wept loudly.

After the casket was secured, an honor guard leader’s voice rang out, “Prepare to take our brother home.”

People of all ages stood solemnly along Roxbury Road and Main Street watching the procession of firetrucks, police and Med-Care Ambulance Service vehicles.

An honor guard of two groups of firefighters walked among the vehicles. Not a sound was heard save for the rumble of the firetrucks.

Engine No. 1 stopped at the Mexico Fire Station, allowing Wentzell’s son, Chief Gary Wentzell, and Gary’s cousin, Rick Harding Theriault, a Connecticut firefighter, to take Harding Wentzell’s captain’s helmet and gear off the truck.

Hurd played another tune as the pair then walked to the station and gently stacked the items in front of the central bay door. Two station horn tones sounded, followed by silence.

School buses, following the firetrucks and emergency vehicles, then took people to Greenwood Cemetery in Dixfield for Harding Wentzell’s interment service.

There, Hurd played the requested “Amazing Grace.”

Gary Wentzell said that was one of the toughest times for him.

“To see all of these people here together and remembering him, it’s astronomical,” Chief Wentzell said.


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