Longtime Williamston fire chief’s family remembers his life after sudden death

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WILLIAMSTON, SC (WSPA)–The Williamston community has said goodbye to a man who served as a fire Chief for nearly 30 years. According to Chief Steve Ellison’s family, they said he passed away suddenly on last Thursday.

“He was my hero, and he was my rock. But Jesus Christ has me,” said Bette Jean Ellison, Chief Ellison’s wife.

For more than 50 years, Bette Jean Ellison worked alongside her 74-year-old husband, until he resigned about a month ago.

“This is the biggest shock of my whole life,” Ellison said.

The family said former Chief Ellison’s death was unexpected.

“He went into septic shock. The bacteria left the urinary tract system and went into the blood stream and it attacked his body and his kidneys shutdown,” said Julia Nichols, Chief Ellison’s daughter.

Ellison was Williamston’s fire chief for 27 years, and worked for the department for more than 45 years. He was a volunteer firemen, as well. Ellison’s dedication and hard work, inspired his daughter, since she was young.

“I used to go to First Baptist daycare and I would see the fire trucks go by and I knew my daddy and my uncle were there, and I wanted to go so bad. It just made my sick I wanted to go so bad and that’s how I knew I was going to windup doing something like this,” Nichols said.

Nichols is not only a first responder, but her son, husband, and brother also carries the chief’s legacy.

“My dad taught me to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And to be strong and to be tough. And he taught me that you show people how you love them through your actions not your words,” Nichols said.

“He was a friend. He was a fellow firefighter, and he was a mentor,” said Tim Heatherly, Williamston Interim Fire Chief. “He didn’t mentor so much in words, but he mentored with his actions. And if you watched him, it showed you the type of chief that you would like to be. Through his actions of the way he deals with people. The way he handle his self on fire scenes and also the relationships he built with other fire departments,” Heatherly said.

“The fire department was Steve Ellison’s hobby. It was his life. He sacrificed so much, to be the Williamston Fire Chief,” Heatherly said.

During Ellison’s tenure, he purchased the station’s first ladder truck, and brought in paid firemen.

“Some of the biggest highlights of his career were our fire station going from an ISO rating of five to an ISO rating of three, which brought the citizens of Williamston tremendous breaks in tax cuts because of that improvement in the fire service,” Nichols said. “One of the very biggest highlights of his career, was getting paid firemen down here at the fire station, and his grandson being one of those firemen, my son,” she added.

“If I could tell you one thing about my dad, is that he taught me to love everybody equally and always be there to help anybody you could,” Nichols said.

While the family and the fire department said they will continue his legacy, they said he will be missed.

“He’s gone and we know he’s in a better place, but I can assure you, the Town of Williamston, the Williamston Fire Department will never forget Steve Ellison. And to carry his legacy on, I know he would want to the Williamston Fire Department going and growing and that’s our goal,” Heatherly said.

“And it’s only been through the grace of God that we have been able to make this. And we just ask for your prayers,” Ellison said.

Interim Chief Heatherly took over when Chief Ellison resigned due to health problems. Heatherly said he hopes to dedicate the Spring Water Festival Car Show to Ellison later this year.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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