Emotions ran the gamut during Tuesday's retirement reception and open house held in the Benton Fire Station.
Retiring fire Chief Mickey Marshall quipped about his two-year battle with prostate cancer, telling well-wishers, "I'm not dead."
Between laughter and tears, he recalled highlights of his 25-year career.
"I never dreaded coming to work one day," Marshall said. "When I first started working at the Benton Fire Station there was a trailer sitting on the lot that wasn't in use. I thought what a great smokehouse that would make for kids to learn about fire safety. The city and the fire department didn't have the money but through the high school and K-4 donations from Benton Grade School, it became a reality and is now used to teach fire prevention.
"I want to thank the guys I started with," he said. "Jeff Shew was a volunteer when I first started working here and later became a firefighter. Mark Hall and David Moore were here when I started. We all started together. They are the true heroes."
Marshall also extended appreciation to Benton city council members, Mayor Gary Kraft and health and public safety commissioner Dennis Miller for organizing the event.
He received a plaque of appreciation from the city, a West City fire helmet from West City Fire Department administrative director Richard Dale and applause from his beloved audience.
"I love you guys," Marshall said.
Dale said he and Marshall worked together for eight years.
"When my daughter passed away in a car accident, Mickey Marshall was the first man by my side," he said while choking back tears.
Firefighter Shane Cockrum read a portion of Marshall's biography with the Benton Fire Station, saying Marshall responded to his first fire on Feb. 27, 1986.
"That was also Mickey's first day on the job," he said. "He personally responded to 857 fire calls, 538 false alarms, 130 mutual aid calls, 94 rescues and 1,772 calls as fire chief."
Marshall said he witnessed one of the largest fire calls in the history of Benton during his tenure. "I am lucky to have lived through all of it," he said.