It was an emotional scene in Surrey earlier this month, where friends, former colleagues and supporters turned out to honour Ron Cross.
It wasn’t a retirement celebration for Cross, the city’s former fire chief. That was eight years ago.
Instead, this was a show of support for the ex-chief who is now locked in a battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Fire trucks, police cruisers, ambulances, vintage cars, a decorated minivan, even someone playing bagpipes in the back of a pickup truck turned out.
Cross, decked out in his full uniform, took in the scene with his wife Marilyn.
“We love you Ron,” someone called out at one point. “Love you, too,” he responded.
“I certainly felt the love from everyone who came. It was just amazing,” Cross told Global News.
“When they saluted him, he had to lift his right arm because his right side isn’t doing so good. But he looked pretty handsome in his uniform,” Marilyn added.
Cross spent three decades battling fires before moving up the ranks of the Surrey Fire Service.
Now instead of flames, he’s fighting for ALS patients with ALS Action Canada, an organization pushing Health Canada to approve a promising new drug called AMX0035, that could potentially dramatically slow down the progress of the disease.
“It doesn’t have to be too late for Ron and other people if we can get this to market,” Marilyn said. “We can’t wait anymore.”
The disease is already taking its toll on the former chief. Ron is scheduled for surgery to have a feeding tube inserted. And it will get harder.
“We dragged people out of buildings for 30 years,” he said.
“Now I can’t even do up a shirt button. It’s pretty frustrating. It’s a slow, slow, horrible death.”
But for one sunny day, Cross had a chance to reconnect with familiar faces, and to be reminded that he’s not alone in this fight.