VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The community is mourning the loss of a former Virginia Beach Fire Department chief, city council member Harry E. Diezel.

A celebration of life ceremony was held on Friday.

According to the fire department, Chief Diezel started on May 1, 1974, after the department’s very first Chief, E.B. Bayne retired.  When Diezel assumed the chief’s position, the VBFD only had120 career firefighters, now the department has over 500. 

In a message to the department, the current Virginia Beach Fire Chief, David Hutcheson said, “Those of us who were fortunate enough to have had him as our chief, have lost a mentor and father figure.”

Diezel retired from the fire department in September of 1997. In 2002, he was unanimously appointed to the Virginia Beach City Council to represent the Kempsville District.

He served on City Council for 10 years.

Diezel was involved in public service for most of his life. He started in the fire service when he was just 18-years-old at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. He even served in the U.S. Army with assignments to the 82nd Airborne and 1st Cavalry Divisions.

The community leader died one day before his 79 birthday, and he is survived by his wife, Ginny and their son, Matthew.