JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Family, friends, community members and Jacksonville firefighters laid to rest a longtime Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department lieutenant on Thursday.
Lt. Mario Moya served the Jacksonville community for 17 years before he died from COVID-19 complications last week.
The funeral and a prayer vigil were held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Old St. Augustine Road.
More than 100 first responders in full dress uniform paid tribute to Moya, lining the entrance of the church as his flag-draped casket was brought inside and again when he was brought out.
The community was encouraged to come out and show support for the procession afterward. Community members saluted and held American flags, including Leo Heaton, who paid his respect to his friend and fellow member of the service organization St. Johns River Council.
“We’re going to miss Mario because he was such a great individual to have and he was a huge asset for the community,” Heaton said. “He was always doing things for the community.”
A view from Sky4 as the procession went under the American Flag. Fire Chief Keith Powers says it was an emotional service about sacrifice. Powers says he will miss Lt. Moya’s big smile. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/GZzZT25ZVn— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) August 26, 2021
Moya’s viewing was held Wednesday night with dozens of firefighters coming to pay respects to their friend and mentor.
“He just loved working in this community. Mandarin is a very tight-knit community. All of his assignments throughout the year brought him back to Fire Station 42. He relished working in the community that he lived in. I think that’s extraordinary,” said Chief David Castleman with the JFRD Rescue Division.
Moya, 51, died following hospitalization with COVID-19. He is the first Jacksonville firefighter to die from the virus. He leaves behind his wife and three children.
After the mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mandarin, the procession route continued north on 295 all the way around to Lem Turner, then to Lannie Road, ending at the cemetery.
Moya is remembered as a passionate firefighter who always worked hard but was modest and never promoted his own achievements.
“He just sort of sat back and let his actions speak louder than his words. I think that’s what is most important to remember about Mario. He just was the man who stood behind the curtain and made everything happen out front,” Castleman said.
Fire Chief Keith Powers asks the community to continue to lift Moya’s family and JFRD up in your prayers.
Powers described Moya’s memorial as emotional, touching and as a celebration of his service.
The department will continue to support the Moya family, and Moya’s name will be added to the fallen firefighter memorial wall downtown.
“He’ll be the 24th edition to that wall in the history of our department, where he’ll be forever remembered for the sacrifice he made,” said Powers. “They took an oath to protect and serve, and they do that every day without regard for their own safety.”
For those who personally knew Moya, it was easy to note what they’ll remember most.
“That big smile,” said Powers. “I wish God would have blessed me with a smile like he blessed Mario.”