Edward Lynn Embrey set a true example of living a selfless life dedicated to helping others, according to friends and family who knew him as “Eddie.”
After being diagnosed in 2014, Embrey, of Rockfish Depot, died Jan. 31 at 67 from cancer.
As a man of many hats, Embrey was a member of the Faber Volunteer Fire Department in Nelson County, where he served as chief for many terms; was part of the Nelson County Rescue Squad, where he served as captain for many terms; worked for the Virginia Department of Forestry 37 years; and was instrumental to Nelson County in relief and recovery efforts after Hurricane Camille struck 50 years ago.
“He was a gentleman. I don’t think we went anywhere together where he didn’t hold the door for me,” said Martha Warring, senior area forester for the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF).
Warring worked with Embrey, who started out as a chief forest warden and was promoted to technician for VDOF, from 1994 until Embrey retired in 2007.
“He was very easy to work with. He knew his job well and did it well,” Warring said.
Warring said not only did Embrey do what was expected of him as a technician for the VDOF, but also went above and beyond for anyone who needed help.
“I don’t know if the man ever said no. He was always willing to help someone out,” Warring said.
According to Warring, Embrey rallied people to go down with him and help fight forest fires in Florida and Texas, as well as in Page County, Virginia.
Warring said he also delivered tree seedlings to Nelson, the surrounding areas, up into Northern Virginia and Farmville. Along with delivering seedlings and fighting forest fires, Embrey helped run Smokey the Bear School programs teaching people about preventing wildfires.
After 45 years of marriage, Marilyn Embrey had many fond memories of her husband’s selfless life of servitude, whether it was for the VDOF, the fire department, or for the family. Marilyn Embrey said after he was finished with radiation at Martha Jefferson Hospital, he went to The Apple Shed on U.S. 29 and bought different jams and jellies to give to the employees at the hospital who cared for him.
“He was grateful to all of their kindness in administering treatments. They had become like a little second family. He did that as a ‘thank you for thanking take care of me,’” Marilyn Embrey said.
Marilyn Embrey said even in his final weeks, he was always putting others before himself.
“In his last few weeks of life he was home under Hospice and even then he would always ask if everyone in the house was okay. Whether it was me or the kids; he always wanted to know if everyone was okay,” Marilyn Embrey said.
Recently elected U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-5th, delivered a one-minute speech honoring Embrey Feb. 7 in Washington, D.C.
Riggleman spoke about Embrey’s time as chief of the Faber Volunteer Fire Department and captain of the Nelson County Rescue Squad. Riggleman also spoke about Embrey’s time fighting fires all over the United States, leading to him being honored with the Forest Warden of the Year Award in 1993.
“His dedication to public safety and to helping all the men and women of Nelson County should be recognized and commended. He put his life at risk time after time to save people he didn’t even know across the entirety of the commonwealth. Eddie lived a life of selflessness and for that we are all thankful. From me and all those who have served, rest easy, Chief,” Riggleman said in his speech Feb. 7.
Other first responders, like Curtis Sheets, Chief of Wintergreen Fire and Rescue, shared the same sentiments as Riggleman.
“He was a blessing to work with,” Sheets said.
Sheets said Embrey was a mild-mannered man, who was easy to get along with and who was very fair. Sheets said although he was chief of the Faber Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, interim coordinator of the Nelson County Emergency Services, and captain of the Nelson Rescue Squad, Embrey was also willing to do whatever needed to be done despite his title.
“Whenever Eddie came into a shift, he did whatever you needed him to do,” Sheets said.
Embrey had one brother and sister, three children and seven grandchildren. Along with his immediate family, Embrey had a number of in-laws, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
Sheets said Embrey was instrumental in the first attempts in the getting a second exit out of Wintergreen Resort back in 2007. Constructing a second exit for safety reasons has been a mission of Wintergreen Resort for the past 12 years.
“He went up to Capitol Hill with us to talk to a congressman. He was right there in the trenches with us,” Sheets said.
Before his passing, Embrey’s “Peace Hill” family farm and family forest obtained “century” status. The farm was given the status by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the forest was given the status by the Virginia Department of Forestry. “Century Family Farm” and “Century Family Forest” designations mean they have been in and operated by Embrey’s family for at least 100 years.
“He was very pleased with that,” Warring said.
According to his obituary, Embrey’s hobbies included hunting, assisting, and watching his grandchildren fish.
“He always put others above himself and taught so many people what he learned over the years. He was just so dedicated and gave whatever 100 percent to everything he did,” Marilyn Embrey said.