By Kelly Werthmann

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Bells are a symbolic tone and longtime tradition in a firefighter’s career. They once marked the start of a shift, alarm bells summon crews to a call, and they mournfully signal a fallen first responder’s sacrifice.

(credit: Franktown Fire)

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Such bells rang Tuesday morning at First Denver Church in memory of South Metro Firefighter-Paramedic Anthony Palato.

“Tony was a gift to us,” SMFR Lt. Paul Scrabeck said at the memorial service. “And now he’s gone.”

Palato dedicated his life to emergency service. Born and raised in Aurora, the Hinkley High School grad loved helping others and his family said he knew early on he wanted to become a paramedic. He would spend more than 30 years as a paramedic – in the private sector and fire service – before passing away from job-related cancer at 55 years old.

“The fire service was more than just a job to Tony, it was a calling,” SMFR Chief Bob Baker said. “He was a true professional. South Metro has lost an icon and our community has lost a hero.”

Chief Baker also noted the timing of Palato’s death.

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(credit: CBS)

“Tony passed four days after our 9/11 remembrance ceremony at 3:43 in the morning,” Baker said. “343 is the number of New York City firefighters that died on 9/11. It was a harsh reminder to me, and probably to a lot of you, of our dangerous profession, how precious our time is with our loved ones.”

Palato stopped at nothing to help his community every day. On this day, his community stopped to honor him. Hundreds of people lined the procession route from the church as it wove through the South Metro area. Among them, a firefighter wife and her young son.

“We all feel it,” Annamarie Trunkenbolz told CBS4. “Even though I didn’t know this firefighter personally…you just pay your respects for someone who sacrificed his life for us.”

Family and friends said they will always remember Palato’s bright smile and infectious laugh and will never forget his servant’s heart.

Anthony Palato

Anthony Palato (credit: South Metro Fire)

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“Paramedic Anthony Palato, you’ve answered your final alarm,” said a dispatcher during Palato’s service. “Brother, you will be missed. We will never forget the sacrifice that you have made as your legacy will live on through all of us and all that we do. God speed, rest in peace, Tony. We have it from here.”

Kelly Werthmann