Groundbreaking Tulsa firefighter laid to rest

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Reported by: Farron Salley
Updated: 9/27/2013 5:45 pm Published: 9/27/2013 4:37 pm

Funeral services were held Friday for Tulsa's first African-American fire chief.

Merle Lynnwood Stripling, 83, was one of Tulsa's first black firefighters and people of many backgrounds honored him.

More than 200 people went to the Saint Monica Catholic Church to pay respects for what the program called "a legend going home."

Two fire trucks waved the American flag outside during the funeral. His son said he's honored that his father left a legacy.

"I saw him as the first door opener for others to follow in his footsteps, for other minorities to come through and make advancements in the Tulsa Fire Department since he's come through," said his son, Paul.

One such fireman is Renaldo Works, who started on the department in 1983 working under Stripling.

"As a black firefighter he was instrumental in me getting on the job and promoting. He would show me the way," he said.

He, too, said Stripling's love for the Fire Department helped set him apart.

"He was fair, he was fun to work with, stern but a good mentor. He loved being a firefighter as you can hear in his kids. it's an honorable career and he loved doing it," he said.

Everyone who talked to FOX23 also said he was a family man.

The values he used on the job, he also shared with people at church and at home.

"No matter what the obstacles or the politics involved pursue your dream and you shall succeed," they said.

At the end of the service a bell rang so Stripling could answer his final alarm.

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