VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. (WVEC) -- The first black firefighter to serve with the Virginia Beach Fire Department is being remembered.

Monday's service was held at Freedom Fellowship Church on Regency Drive. Cooke was 66 years old.

Retired Master Firefighter Tony Cooke passed away last week. He joined the department in 1976. It was just 10 years later when he was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing four children in a fire at the Plaza Apartments on Dillon Drive.

Before joining the Virginia Beach Fire Department, Cooke served the nation in the United States Army, which included a tour of duty in Vietnam.

His wife, Rosita Marshall-Cooke, said her husband was a trailblazer, someone who paved a way.

"He wanted to make sure that he paved the way for those young, especially young black men, who were coming in the ranks behind him," she said.

Retired Master Firefighter, Williams Graves, was the second black firefighter in the department and credits Cooke for inspiring him to join.

"His desire. He just seemed like he had so much fun being a firefighter so I wanted to be a part of it," said Graves.

His accomplishments that has cemented his name in local history but it's Cooke, as a person, that has forever impacted the crowd that came to say final farewells.

"He loved his career. He loved his job, but he also loved people," said Marshall-Cooke.