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Community mourning loss of Annapolis Royal firefighter killed in motorcycle crash

Annapolis Royal firefighter Brogan Gunn died as a result of a single-vehicle motorcycle crash in Belleisle May 28. CONTRIBUTED BY ARVFD
Annapolis Royal firefighter Brogan Gunn died as a result of a single-vehicle motorcycle crash in Belleisle May 28. CONTRIBUTED BY ARVFD
ANNAPOLIS ROYAL, N.S. —

It hurts to be awake and reminded of how her life was forever changed in a split second.

She’s cried until her throat is raw.

But Wendy Abramson can’t rest. Not yet.

She wants the world to know what was lost when her son, Brogan Gunn, died as a result of a single-vehicle motorcycle crash along Highway 1 in Belleisle May 28.

“I’m really realizing, looking at all of the hundreds and hundreds of posts on Facebook, how many lives he touched,” she said May 30.

“It’s incredible.”

Kind, giving, caring, helpful, funny – she’s heard it all in recollections of fond memories starring her “Brogie.”

“I have people messaging me, telling me they needed to move something in the middle of a snowstorm and they put it on Facebook, and Brogan was the only one that turns up with his truck. He was just always the guy, always the one,” she said, pausing for a moment.

“I think to myself, if you knew that many people and touched that many lives and you were 23 years old, if you’d have lived as long as I feel you should have lived, my goodness – what could you have done?”

Gunn found a brotherhood within the Annapolis Royal Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as a firefighter for more than five years. His mother vividly remembers shouting “be careful” as he dashed out the door for countless fire calls, only to get a casual “OK, Mom” in return.

“He took it all in stride. I think he saw more than kids his age should see, but that’s the nature of doing something like being a firefighter,” she said.

“We had more than a few chats about some of the accidents he’d been to.”

Abramson said her son consciously chose to remain in the area because of the bonds shared with fellow firefighters at the local department. There was no place he’d rather be, no call he wanted to miss.

“These guys are my brothers,” he often told her.

ADMIRED SON

Her son’s resilience was clear at a young age, in what she calls his character-building years. He lived with Crohn’s disease, and required a strict diet administered through a feeding tube to assist with his growth in junior high.

“He wasn’t allowed to eat anything by mouth for six months, all he was allowed was water.”

The NG tube ran from his nose to his stomach, and once he was comfortable leaving the house with it in, he could regularly be seen around town riding his bicycle while carrying the pump he loathed in a backpack.

Abramson suggested he give the pump a name, just for fun.

Her son, ever the comedian, decided the only fitting name would be the ugliest one he could think up - Engelburt Pumperdinck, a play on the name of a famous pianist.

“Engelburt started to get broken and wouldn’t work and I started to think he might be sabotaging Engelburt,” Abramson recalled with a hearty laugh, momentarily drowning out present-day sorrow with one of her most cherished memories.

Abramson knows she’s not hurting alone. Her heart aches for her other son, Dorian, the eldest of the two boys by 17 months.

“You could never have gotten two closer brothers. They were best friends from day one to the last day,” she said, noting that his father is Michael Gunn and his half brother, Zach Cromwell, served alongside him in the fire department.

She finds comfort in knowing memories of her son will live on in family and friends.

PROUD FIREFIGHTER

At a time when Craig Wright often feels at a loss for words, he can’t help but think of what his best friend could do with just one.

“He was the type of guy that could turn a sad day into a good day with one word. He was always the type of guy that could put a smile on someone’s face,” said Wright May 29.

It pains Wright to speak of his firefighting brother in the past tense.

 “I think a lot of people should know the type of guy that he was… the people that didn’t know him as well as I did… I think everybody should know,” said Wright.

“Times like this you don’t really know what to do and that’s, I think, the least I could do for him.”

The former Annapolis West Education Centre students knew of each other from school but grew close after joining the local fire department around the same time.

 “We did all of our training together, so we became the best of friends,” said Wright, who was a couple years ahead of Gunn in school.

“He always had your back, no matter what. He was the one that was coming out of a burning house covered in soot and ash because he liked to get dirty and doing the best that he could do to get the job done.”

Gunn was “100 per cent dedicated” to firefighting, Wright said.

“He was always willing to help out. Usually when he was helping you with something it was him doing it because he wanted to do it his way,” he said, quietly laughing at the thought.

“I don’t think anyone could live like he did.”

Chief Andrew Cranton said the department is taking steps to support members as they mourn the loss of one of their own.

“He was an outstanding person, he was a go-getter, he was in his prime. He had just bought himself a house,” said Cranton through a cracking voice.

The fire chief saw Gunn as an enthusiastic, active young man with loads of promise.

 “He was a tough guy with a huge heart. He would always put everybody in front of him and himself last.”

COMMUNITY MOURNS

Firefighters at the neighbouring Bridgetown department attended the scene of the tragic crash that claimed Gunn’s life.

“We’re like a huge family, so I can only imagine it was hard for Bridgetown to do what they had to do for us,” said Cranton.

“We know that EHS and RCMP and Bridgetown Fire did everything that they could to help us, but it didn’t end up the way we wanted.”

Flags were flown at half-mast throughout town in the wake of Gunn’s passing, and condolences poured in for members of his family and the fire department. The profile picture on the department’s Facebook page was changed to a photo of firefighting gear hanging in “B. Gunn’s” locker.

“Rest easy brother. We will take it from here,” white lettering inserted in the photograph reads.

“It was a pleasure to be associated with Brogan. I’m proud to be his chief. He was an excellent firefighter. He was an excellent community member. He was an excellent man,” said Cranton.

“He was an all-around good guy and he’s going to be sadly missed.”

Donations in his memory can be made to the IWK, Annapolis Royal Volunteer Fire Department or a bursary fund that will soon be established for an annual Brogie Spirit Award at AWEC.

“I don’t have all of the details ironed out yet but it’s going to be something like the kids in Grade 11 and 12 will get to vote on who they think has been there the most for the other students, who has helped the other students the most on their own,” said Abramson.

“The bursary will come with a stipulation that 10 per cent of it they have to use to pay it forward to help somebody else in Brogan’s name.”

A Celebration of Life for Brogan Gunn will be held at the Annapolis Royal fire hall at 1 p.m. June 1.

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