Riders join in sendoff for a fallen firefighter
In a somber but moving tribute to fallen firefighter Zachary Anthony, family, friends and emergency workers came together for a fitting send off on Saturday afternoon.
Members of Warriors’ Watch Riders, Patriot Guard Riders, local fire companies, emergency workers and more assembled at Parryville’s Keystone Harley Davidson late in the morning for Anthony’s Line of Duty Death Escort Ride.
“We were approached by the family to see if we could honor their son today. I put the word out, and we got groups here from Patriot Guard, Legion Riders, Red Knights, who are a motorcycle group consisting of firefighters. The word went out and this happened. It’s the least we can do for this hero,“ Warriors’ Watch Rider and organizer Beau Pence said.
Pence originally expected about 30 or 40 riders to come along for the escort.
By the time kickstands were up at noon, more than 100 bikers had joined the crew, along with fire personnel from just about every local company and other first responders.
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Anthony, along with fellow York City Fire/Rescue Services member Ivan Flanscha, died in a building collapse on March 22, the day after a three-alarm fire destroyed the structure.
A Kunkletown native and alumnus of Pleasant Valley High School, Anthony graduated from Florida State Fire College in Ocala, Florida. He volunteered as a Polk Township firefighter before starting his professional career in York City in 2010.
“We’re very honored to have you all out here today. We really, really appreciate it,” Anthony’s father, Ray, said to the crowd before they took off.
State Trooper Justin Magluilo, who attended school with Anthony, came out with the State Police to assist with rider safety and offer support for the community.
“We work closely with the fire company, so anything we can do to help out and show our support, that’s what we’re here for,” he said.
Anthony was a familiar face to many of the riders, as he had made similar trips to honor other heroes in his time.
“He served our community not only as a firefighter, but as a Patriot Guard Rider as well,” Pence said.
Patriot Guard Rider Craig Fussell, standing at the front of the line for the escort, had a strong connection to Anthony as not only a fellow rider, but a close friend.
“He rode with me on a few missions. In fact, that’s my bike right there, and I have a few pictures of him on it. He married my wife and I. A lot of people didn’t know that. That’s our wedding pictures right there on the bike,” he said pointing to two photos featuring Anthony officiating his ceremony.
“It’s a lot harder,” Fussell said, choking back a bit before continuing. “It’s a lot harder when it’s your friend. But it’s a good feeling, knowing that so many people liked him, like my wife and I.”
At the stroke of noon, the escort kicked off, carrying Anthony’s remains to Polk Township Volunteer Fire Company for a memorial ceremony. Right on the edge of Route 248, trucks from East Penn and Lehighton’s fire companies extended their ladders, with an American flag between them at the pinnacle. As the revving of engines sounded off, the procession hit the road for Anthony’s last ride.
“In this world of negativity right now, to see this kind of turnout to honor this family and this hero, it shows that we still have some hope in this country, as far as I’m concerned,” Pence said.