Longtime Hampton firefighter Ernest ‘Bubba’ Hale remembered for his service, humor


HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Friends and family of Ernest “Bubba” Hale laid the longtime firefighter to rest on Friday.

Hale died at the age of 91 earlier this week.

He worked in fire service for 75 years — 38 of those with Hampton Fire.

“He was the longest serving fireman in the City of Hampton. He got the Medal of Honor for his bravery for all he’s done. He saved lives. He developed the first dispatch system for the fire department. He just touched a lot of lives,” said his daughter, Pam Hale Johnson.

Johnson and other family members including Hale’s wife Betty remember him for his sense of humor and kindness.

Those characteristics brought out many people to Hale’s viewing and funeral, according to his family.

“It validates who he is. Everyone had a funny story about him. He was a real comedian,” Johnson said.

Before starting his career at the Phoebus Volunteer Fire Company, Hale served the United States in World War II. 

John Cizmar, the president of Phoebus Volunteer, says that Hale was a fire captain at the age of 19, which is unusual.

Cizmar says after he retired in the 90s, Hale continued to be active in the fire community, even visiting fire stations every day to chat and have coffee with firefighters.

Hale was the Phoebus Company’s chaplain at the time of his death.

“He filled so many holes. He was past president. He was a chaplain since 1997. He was a lot of things to a lot of people, but most of all, he was a good firefighter and a good friend,” Cizmar said.

There’s a lot to be said about Hale and his service in the community.

“He was a great person. You can’t sum him up in five words or less. If you look up in the dictionary firefighter, you’ll see a picture of Ernest Hale, “ Cizmar said.

Besides his work with the fire departments, his family says Hale was also active as Santa’s helper at Coliseum Mall for 25 years and would visit kids who could not make it out to see Santa.

He also helped promote fire safety in schools.

While Hale is gone, his family and friends will continue to remember the lasting legacy he left behind.

“He will be missed, but we will always smile when we think about dad,” Johnson said.

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