CORNING – November rain drizzled from the sky on a chilly Sunday morning in Corning, but the precipitation had nothing to do with the wet eyes of those in attendance for a memorial service to honor Curtis Bragg, the former fire chief of the Corning Volunteer Fire Department.
Bragg did not survive a truck crash that took place on Nov. 7, 2021. Family, Corning residents, and firefighters from three counties gathered on Sunday, Nov. 21 to remember the man who dedicated a lifetime of service to the Corning Fire Department. Bragg served as a Corning volunteer firefighter for over 50 years, 49 of those years as the fire chief. Bragg retired as chief in 2013.
The current Corning fire chief, Travis Donahue, is in his second year in that role. Prior to the memorial service, he spoke highly of the man who had held that position for an astonishing 49 years.
“Curt Bragg was more than our fire chief, he was a pillar of this community,” stated Chief Donahue.
He was also a husband and father of five children. Bragg enjoyed his horses, motorcycles, coon hunting, gardening, and fishing, but he will forever be remembered for the vision he had for the Corning Fire Department. Whether it was the comments from those speaking at the memorial or the memories shared by those paying their respects, the theme was always the same.
“Chief Bragg was instrumental in getting a new fire station built in 1977,” was one comment. “He was always looking ahead,” was another. And one that brought a nod of acknowledgment from the Corning firefighters who stood together at the service, “I always remember him saying ‘you can’t fight fire without water.’”
Two parts of the ceremony were particularly poignant. One was the playing of Amazing Grace by Michael Avery, Curt Bragg’s first cousin. The sounds of Avery’s bagpipes as well as his impeccable Scottish kilt outfit added to the respect and appreciation those in attendance had for their former chief.
When Brian Toth rang the fire bell in three sets of three rings each, Fire Chief Curtis Bragg’s end of work was recorded at 11:12 a.m. Those in attendance slowly formed a line that led to the tent where Curt Bragg’s wife, Sue, and family members sat under an open air tent. They were there to pay their respects for a man who had dedicated a lifetime of service to the Corning community.
“This was the hardest one I have ever done,” explained Michael Avery as he described the playing of the bagpipes. “I’ve done a bunch of these, but this was the hardest one.” He had made the trip from Rockwell, North Carolina, to honor his cousin.
Avery’s voice was fighting to maintain self-control, but his eyes overflowed with grief. “We grew up on a farm in Oakfield,” Michael Avery said of his cousin. “I didn’t have a brother, but I had my cousin. He was my big brother.”
Big brother, father, husband, firefighter, fire chief, and pillar of the community, Curtis Bragg was all these for his family and community. While a man like him will be forever missed, his kind always leaves a blueprint for those of us left behind to follow.