Monroe’s mother finds comfort in community’s efforts

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
Sometimes, Lisa Monroe said it feels like only yesterday when her son, Salisbury firefighter Justin Monroe, was killed in the line of duty, “and then again, it seems like it was a hundred years ago.”
Saturday ó the one-year anniversary of his death in the Salisbury Millwork Co. fire ó was a long, but comforting day for Lisa and Eddie Monroe. The day began with an 8:45 a.m. memorial service for her son and Victor Isler at the Salisbury-Rowan Firefighters’ Memorial in the southern end of Chestnut Hill Cemetery.
“I thought the service was very beautiful,” Lisa Monroe said Saturday evening. “There was a lot of outpouring from the community and friends and family and other firefighters.”
A private luncheon followed at Salisbury Fire Station No. 1, where the families of Monroe and Isler were presented The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest state civilian honor presented through the Governor’s Office.
In addition, individual oil portraits of the two fallen firefighters by artist Annette Hall were unveiled. Lisa Monroe said both portraits, which will remain at the station, were beautiful.
Three engraved bronze plaques featuring the names, likenesses and service records of Monroe and Isler and Joe Jenkins ó a Salisbury firefighter who perished in the line of duty in 1971 ó were also revealed and will remain on permanent display in the front foyer of the station.
Lisa Monroe said the luncheon was laid back. “It seemed like it was a time for everybody to talk and just bond a little bit,” she said.
At 2:30 p.m., Lisa and Eddie Monroe attended a ceremony dedicating a newly installed informational sign at the front of the Miller’s Ferry Fire Station at 2650 Long Ferry Road, where their son started as a junior firefighter and served as a lieutenant at the time of his death.
The digital sign will provide information for the whole community, Lisa said. “A lot of Miller’s Ferry firefighters stay in touch with us and some from Salisbury,” she said.
The Monroes also received a copy of a 44-page, full-color Fallen Firefighter Memorial Booklet in memory of Justin and Isler. “Karen Wilkinson did a whole lot of work on that,” Lisa said, “and she did a beautiful job kind of like the beginning-to-end type thing.”
For the Monroes, there were many poignant moments throughout Saturday. Lisa said a woman came up to her at the morning memorial service and told her something Justin had done to help her son.
“And I never knew it,” she said. “He was just trying to help a young boy who was having difficulty, and he took the time to go to the elementary school at North Rowan to help him. The boy was there today.”
Though he’s 14 now, Lisa Monroe said the boy was only 10 when Justin reached out to him. “His mother was kind enough to share it,” she said.
Lisa Monroe said she and her husband find the outpouring of support they continue to receive from the community very comforting. “We have a lot of people that support us and pray for us,” she said, “our church and a lot of people in the community.
“They don’t forget Justin. We go to restaurants, and their pictures are still there. Even though sometimes it’s hard to look at them, it means so much that they’re not forgotten, either one of them.
“It’s amazing to me that Justin touched so many lives in 19 years, but we continue to find out things that he did.”
When asked what her son would have thought about Saturday’s ceremonies, Lisa Monroe said Justin would have probably been embarrassed.
“He did a lot for people that I guess I never knew he did,” she said. “He wasn’t the type of person that came home and told you about it or bragged about it.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.