Friends say Mark Marentette was dedicated to fire service and Canandaigua

CANANDAIGUA — Those who knew the late Mark Marentette are remembering the former fire chief’s devotion to the fire service and his love of the Canandaigua community, while grieving the loss of a man who was devoted to his two children.

Marentette, 56, died Wednesday, Jan. 9. A memorial service is planned Jan. 26 at Middleville United Methodist Church in Michigan.

Marentette, formerly of Middleville, had previously served as fire chief in Muskegon Township and Thornapple Township in Michigan, and Defiance, Ohio, before coming to Canandaigua, according to the obituary notice provided by his family.

Marentette was appointed by the city of Canandaigua as fire chief in 2011 — a short time after several paid city firefighters were laid off because of budget cuts.

Eric Cooper, who is president of the Erina Hose Volunteer Fire Company, in a letter to the editor on the newspaper’s opinion page, writes that Marentette played a pivotal role in the revival of a department plagued by low morale and low volunteer numbers during a difficult time.

“Mark took on a difficult job, but he set the stage for the Canandaigua Fire Department to grow again,” Cooper wrote.

City Councilmember Bob Palumbo, who was a volunteer Canandaigua firefighter at the time, said he was appointed safety officer shortly after Marentette came aboard. Marentette’s top goals were the safety of firefighters and the safety of the community, Palumbo said.

“He was dedicated to fire service and to Canandaigua — 110 percent,” Palumbo said. “As a friend, it was a privilege to work for him and learn from him.”

Marentette, a former Eagle Scout, worked at daily newspapers in Michigan and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, before discovering his “love of fire service,” according to his obituary.

But he did not let his journalism background fade away.

Marentette provided a weekly column to the Daily Messenger to mark the Canandaigua Fire Department’s 200th anniversary in 2016. He also helped in the publication of a hard-cover book authored by former Canandaigua firefighter Don Ford that also celebrated the milestone.

Marentette’s sense of wonder and amazement at the equipment, or lack thereof, used in the early days of the department and their evolution over time, and his genuine sadness over the loss of lives and property was clear in Marentette’s writing. He tied previous fire tragedies to the safety training of today, and his respect for the men and women who served Canandaigua through the fire service emanated from each column — and in a comment about the book marking the anniversary.

“The traits haven’t changed,” Marentette said in 2016. “You have people who stepped up to help their community.”

Palumbo and others remain impressed at Marentette’s devotion to the projects — spending countless hours on the side — even though he had only lived in the community for a short time.

“He was so interested in Canandaigua,” Palumbo said.

Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni said this has been a difficult week because all who knew him are grieving in some way.

“It’s very difficult because everyone is grieving the loss of a life,” Polimeni said. “A person who did contribute to the community.”

Many also are remembering his love for his two children, Kathryn Marie and Lee Arthur, whom Cooper wrote that at times, they were the only subject Marentette was willing to discuss. “They were his pride and joy,” Cooper wrote.

Marentette’s last column in the anniversary series for the Daily Messenger was a “Calling of the Roll” of the more than 2,400 firefighters who have protected the Canandaigua community during, at the time, its 200 years in existence. The last chapter of the anniversary book lists their names.

One of the people mentioned prominently in his final column was firefighter David Flynn, the last Canandaigua firefighter to die in the line of duty.

Marentette wrote of the firefighter’s family who attended the 200th anniversary banquet, joining others in attendance in watching a video put together for the occasion that “brings to life the story of our Fire Department.”

Marentette’s words then, and perhaps lived out today in his memory: “They smiled, they laughed, and at times, they steadied each other as they wept.”