New Milford fire department pays tribute to 49-year veteran: ‘A friend to all generations’

Mark Lathrop

NEW MILFORD — Growing up on South Main Street, whenever Mark Lathrop and his brother Dave heard the sound of the air horn, they would jump on their bikes and race down to the fire house to watch the trucks go out.

That’s just one of the many stories that Lathrop, a 49-year veteran of the New Milford Water Witch Hose Co. No. 2, would share with his fellow department members.

Lathrop died last month at the age of 70 after battling a long illness. He’s survived by family members including his wife Betsy Lathrop, his daughter Melissa Florio, and his 4-year-old granddaughter Izzy Florio. His brother Dave is Sherman’s fire marshal.

Lathrop began volunteering with the department on April 3, 1972, as a firefighter. “As he got older, he learned the trade of driving the apparatus and pumping the apparatus, and evolved into one of our drivers,” Fire Captain Sean Delaney said.

He eventually earned the rank of fire police captain.

Fire Chief Richard Squires said Lathrop joined the department “because he wanted to help people” and was very involved from day one.

“When I started 14 years ago, Mark was a driver for me. He was also my sponsor. He brought me into the department,” Delaney said. “He was one of the daytime guys, so he’d always be around the fire house.”

He added his late friend was “really fun.”

“He always had a laugh, always had a joke,” Delaney said. “He had a good sense of humor — he was always ribbing with the guys.”

Lathrop was a member of the New Milford Community Ambulance and was active in the regional community for fire police.

“During accidents, structure fires and larger scale incidents, our fire police designates themselves to protect us working on the scene and to also protect the residents and get them around the incidents safely,” Delaney said.

Lathrop was always out on the road. As a fire police captain, he was in charge of about 12 fire and police officers.

As a career, Lathrop drove oil and propane delivery trucks and did detailing. He was also a craftsman and an amateur race car driver.

“He ran races in Middletown and upstate New York. That was his hobby,” Delaney said.

Additionally, Lathrop was an avid outdoorsman, and loved hunting and being out in the woods with the guys.

“You could always count on having a good time when you got together with Mark,” Delaney said.

Lathrop was “a friend to all the generations,” Squires said.

“It’s something amazing and it really does talk to the true testament of his life when you see guys from year 49 all the back to year one and each and every one of us has stories about him, has memories of him, has crazy antics that we did with him,” Squires said.

Lathrop would do anything for anyone, Delaney said.

“This is a guy that, literally up until the end, you could call at a moments notice and ask him for help or for advice, and he was always there and was always available and always willing to give,” he said.

Delaney said there were a few guys several years ago “who were going through a hard time” — and Lathrop helped them.

“Mark was there for them, making sure they were taken care of, that they could keep going,” Delaney said.

He added there were some young men in the department who were always “bouncing around from job to job. Mark was always there to push them in the right direction, motivate them and keep them on track.”

Squires said Lathrop remained very involved in the department up until the weeks before he died — attending fundraisers, family picnics and outings.

“He was still very active and still very much a part of the every-day life and the every-day culture of our department. Mark is at peace and he’s no longer in pain,” he said.

Lathrop set an example of lifelong dedication to not only the department but to the town of New Milford, Squires said.

“The mentality used to be you were born and raised here and this is where you grew up and this is where you settled down — This is a guy that showed you how it used to be,” Squires said. “We are not just losing a friend and a firefighter, we are losing part of the history of New Milford.”

Connecticut Media Group