Submitted by his wife
Kenneth Ray Gailley was a member of the Locust Volunteer Fire Department. He was also with Preston Volunteer Emergency Services. He had been with PVES for a year and a half at the time of his death. At the same time‚ he was also active in the Locust Fire Department. He was a Lieutenant with PVES and had just received the rank of Captain at the time of his death. Kenny’s birthday had just passed when he died. He was 45 years and 18 days old. He assisted in all fire department fund raisers that Preston Fire Department had. He represented Preston in the Toy’s for Tot’s drive with our local radio station. He drove our Rescue 1 truck that he was in charge of at the time. He received ‘Outstanding Fireman of the Year’ awarded for service in 2004 from Lakeside VFW of Pottsboro‚ Texas. He attended and had completed fire protection classes at Collin County College in McKinney‚ Texas. He was always furthering his education with any and all classes that were offered.
Kenny was a message to all of us that you can overcome all of life’s hardest times and become someone of honor and valor. When Kenny was a child his brother‚ who was a year older‚ backed up to a heater and his clothing caught fire. His name was Marlon. He was wearing his older brother’s tee shirt for a sleep shirt. In our youth‚ boys and girls wore ‘nightgowns.’ Marlon died two days after the accident. That always stayed in Kenny’s memories. In fact‚ it was one of the first things he shared with me when we first met. As a child he thought he wanted to be a fireman. We have a picture of him and his younger brother on large plastic fire trucks with the plastic helmets.
Life takes many twists and turns of which Kenny had his share. His father was a batchman at a concrete company. His older brother drove a dump truck and when Kenny got old enough to drive he started out driving for his brother John. It became a family tradition‚ with all four of the Gailley brothers driving or working in the sand and gravel companies. Several times in his life he had volunteered in fire departments as he grew up but was never in a position where he could go back to school or devote his time just to the fire departments.
Finally‚ our circle of life had brought Kenny to the place of his dreams. Kenny and I met when we were both drivers for a sand company. We worked out of different plants but started talking by CB radio. Kenny had just lost his father at the time we met. His mother had died six months to the day before his dad. His life was a wreck and he had been one of the care takers with both parents. I was the provider and caretaker of my mother so we had that to share and for me it was love from the beginning.
Kenny was man with a very loving heart. Kenny’s hobby was building and driving race cars and dirt track stock cars. He would work 15 hours every night then go home and work on his car for the next race and then came the weekends and racing. Kenny and I were together now and we were offered a job with a company driving cross country through 48 states. We took the job to better both our lives. Then in 2001‚ I fell from the side of the truck and broke my neck in a blizzard in Montana. I went through seven surgeries that year with lots of problems. Kenny never left my side but he still worked full time driving a truck solo cross country.
In December 2001‚ we moved back to my home in Pottsboro to care for my mother who was 78 years old and in congestive heart failure. Preston Ambulance provided transport for my mother many times over the next two years. We were blessed with the wonderful service these people had given her that bought us more time with her‚ always knowing these people were volunteers. My mother loved Kenny as a son and he loved her. When she died‚ Kenny had been talking to a fireman that lived close by us. Kenny asked me how I would feel if he joined the fire department to give back some the gifts the department had given us with my mother. So on my birthday that year‚ Kenny started with Preston Fire and Rescue. Arthur Strickland was the Chief when Kenny started. He loved this whole company. Arthur was a truck driver so he and Kenny had a lot in common. Extrication was one of Kenny’s favorite jobs and he was blessed to be working side-by-side with the Asst. Fire Chief Allen Vols. He allowed Kenny the chance to finally have his circle of life complete teaching and working by Kenny on accidents and fires.
Kenny was a whirlwind always working on some project‚ at which he was a perfectionist. He now drove for a local asphalt company‚ attended Collin County College‚ and was in the process of remodeling our home. Our goal was to reach the time where Kenny would no longer drive and just work in the fire department. Knowing that our stations are volunteer‚ that was still what he wanted‚ just to help someone else. Kenny never met a stranger. He enjoyed talking to everyone and always had a story to tell. We were always taking someone in that had fallen on hard times. Kenny and I would do our best to rescue them.
Kenny’s nickname was Grumpy which almost half of North Texas knew him as. His mother gave it to him when he was small because he woke up grumpy when she woke him for school. It stuck for the rest of his life. He had tattoos which he started to get at 38 as an honor of his years with his mother. I know this sounds strange but that was his way of holding on to her. Because of tattoos‚ many people would judge him until they knew the real Kenny.
Kenny was my life’s one reward. He is my heart and soul. My lesson learned from Kenny was that God loans us angels sometimes in our life. The key word is loans but what a wonderful blessing I received. He lived life to the fullest everyday and taught me how to live that way also.
One day Kenny said to me the meaning of the fire and rescue to him meant ‘will you give your life for them‚’ meaning the people he was helping. On June 21‚ 2005‚ that’s exactly what he did. After seeing an accident happen on the opposite side of the highway as he was making his final load for the day‚ Kenny stopped to assist. Did he have to? Not at all‚ but that was his love. So‚ he assisted the Sherman Fire Department‚ got back in his truck to finish his day‚ and died 15 minutes later. He wasn’t sick when he left the scene but immediately he was on his radio calling for help. He stated to them that he was having a heart attack. Two volunteer EMTs worked for the asphalt company with him. When he arrived in the plant‚ they immediately started to help him. They stayed with him and did everything they could until EMS arrived. Kenny died when he got into the ambulance.
Now I tell his story. He never left me without saying ‘I love you’ not even to just run to town. In all the years we were together‚ this was just the way of our life. That morning as he was leaving for work‚ he said ‘I love you with all my heart’ to which I replied the same not knowing those would be the last words we said to each other. But the blessing is we always said these words which made the circle complete. I still don’t have it. I can spend the day just believing he’s at work then knowing at the end of the day he isn’t coming home. He loved music‚ his family and friends and from what all his friends say he loved me most.
In 2003‚ we had traded race cars for motorcycles which we both loved doing. Here in the country around the beautiful lake we live on it was the best. He liked the old gospel hymns. He was brought up by a mother that knew the worth of a young man learning to dance. She had taught Kenny to do all the old dances kids no longer do. We have a wooden floor in our kitchen and own a 1972 juke box which he loved to turn on and just dance together. Kenny bought my wedding rings by saving his expense money when he was driving cross country.
I had the perfect love and still have the perfect love. The two fire departments have shown to be outstanding members of the brotherhood. They stepped up to support me at the time of his death. 17 departments took part in his service. He got his wish to ‘just ride on the back of a fire truck and not in a hearse.’ They still support me and check on me. They are the brotherhood. The friends from his job are still there and miss him dearly. My story could just go on forever I guess. I love him and am so grateful he got his dream. He got it right through honor and valor.