CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Palmyra Volunteer Fire Company and the Charlottesville Fire Department are mourning the loss of 56-year-old Dennis Brent.

Brent passed away Saturday, December 1, from pancreatic cancer.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, hundreds of people gathered in Charlottesville to pay their respects at the Ridge Street Fire Station. The funeral service brought tears and laughter as people from across the country arrived to share memories of Brent.

Brent was a Charlottesville firefighter specialist and the former chief at Palmyra. Also a member of the Charlottesville Honor Guard, he often traveled the country to honor firefighters who died in the line of duty.

"Dennis was a guy that everybody wanted to be. He loved the job, never missed a day of work, and he did this, this is all he ever wanted to do," firefighter Matt Warren said. "He gave us inspiration to be better people. Every day watching him go through this the last couple years has made us want to do this job even harder for him."      

Working his way up the ranks, Brent was eventually named chief, and in December 2000, the city of Charlottesville hired him as a professional firefighter.

"This job meant the world to him, it's all he ever wanted to do was be a fireman," said Timmy Cersley, Charlottesville fire department captain and honor guard commander. "There wasn't a day he used in a sick day until the last two years."

Two years ago, Brent was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, following 38 years of exposure to carcinogens and toxins on the job. As cancer claims the lives of more and more firefighters, these brave men and women are taking their safety precautions to the next level so great men like Dennis Brent are not taken too soon. 

"We changed our outlook when we come out of fires and how we decon [decontaminate] ourselves or clean ourselves off, we're putting measures in place with the new fire truck," states Warren.

Brent battled the cancer, while still fighting fires, until February of this year, when the disease forced him to retire.

On Dec. 1, Brent lost his battle.

"For those of us lucky enough to work with Dennis, he taught you every day what this service means, what time means to wear this uniform, what it means to stand here," Captain Cersley said, "I love you Dennis, I miss you more than you'll ever know."

Until his final days, those who knew him best spent every moment they could with him.  

Warren added, "Everyone banded together, we would all take turns staying with him at night time in the hospital, visit him at his house." 

Charlottesville Fire Captain Brian Powell, who is fighting cancer, says that Brent’s courageous battle has helped show him the way: "It's a personal part to me because now I'm fighting it as well, not the same thing he had but I'm dealing with it as well and his bravery through it has carried, has helped strengthen me."

Brent leaves a legacy his fellow firefighters say they will work hard to uphold.

Charlottesville Fire Chief Andrew Baxter says, "His legacy will be present in the love we share for each other and in our lives of service."

It is easy to say that Charlottesville's Firefighter Specialist Dennis Lynn Brent will never be forgotten.