EATONTON, Ga. — James Arthur Linch was a fun-loving man who deeply enjoyed helping others in whatever way he could.
He also saved many lives and thousands of dollars worth of property serving as the longtime assistant chief and later fire chief of the Eatonton Fire Department.
He was considered one of middle Georgia’s best car and truck mechanics for decades. Linch owned and operated a repair shop on Oak Street in Eatonton.
During his years as assistant fire chief and later on as fire chief, Linch had an influence on the lives of many of the men who served as firefighters under his command. Many of them went on to make firefighting a career and like their mentor, they rose in rank to become fire chiefs, too.
All four of the who men served under Linch and attended his funeral service Saturday in Eatonton. They included current Eatonton Fire Rescue Chief Eugene Hubert; Putnam County Fire Rescue Chief Thomas McClain; former Putnam County Rescue Fire Chief Shane Hill; and Milledgeville Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Wren Marshall.
“If it hadn’t been for Chief Arthur Linch, the county chief, Tommy McClain, Milledgeville Battalion Chief Wren Marshall or myself probably wouldn’t be where we are today,” Hubert said. “His guidance and direction is what helped us get where we are today.”
Marshall said he supported what Hubert said about Linch 100 percent.
For nearly 33 years, Marshall has served the residents of Milledgeville.
“I started out here in 1980 with the Eatonton Fire Department,” Marshall said. “I got a lot of qood training and information from Chief Linch. And unfortunately, this is my fourth one I’ve had to come bury over the last three years.”
Putnam County’s newest county fire chief, Thomas McClain, meanwhile, said Linch provided him with a lot of guidance when he was growing up.
“I got on the Eatonton Fire Department when I was 19,” McClain said. “He (Linch) taught me a lot about how to carry yourself as a man, and as a firefighter.”
McClain said he was like a father-figure to him and that he would never forget all the things he had learned from the beloved fire chief.
“Chief Linch knew me my entire life,” recalled Hill, now retired as chief of Putnam County Fire Rescue, but who continues to work part-time as an officer with the Eatonton Police Department and full-time as a sale representative at Fireline in Milledgeville. “He was an outstanding man and also an outstanding fire chief.”
Hill said when he began his firefighting career Linch was serving as assistant chief of the Eatonton Fire Department. He said Linch certainly had an impact on him deciding to make firefighting a career.
“He was our safety officer when I was started out in Eatonton,” Hill said. “He was very task-oriented and attention to detail chief. He made sure that every snap on our uniforms was snapped, every buckle was buckled and every zipper zipped.”
Linch wanted everyone associated with the city fire department to act and look professional at all times, he said.
Brian Burgamy, who works part-time as a radio dispatcher with the Eatonton Police Department and serves as deputy director of the Putnam County Emergency Management Agency under Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills, and serves as director of the county’s EMA, also talked about his longtime friendship with Linch.
“I’d known Chief Linch my whole career,” Burgamy said. “When I first became a 911 dispatcher on Jan. 1, 1990, he was the first fireman that I met. And I can remember the days of Chief Linch sprinting to calls.”
Linch worked with the Eatonton Fire Department from 1969 until 2002.
“He was just a remarkable individual, as I quoted in his last call,” Burgamy said. “His dedication and his family sacrifices during the time that he was a firefighter and fire chief would be hard to ever be matched.”
Burgamy said Linch was talented in many ways, and had a brilliant mind when it came to mechanics.
“I don’t think there was anything on a fire truck that he couldn’t fix,” Burgamy said. “He knew how to make repairs of waterlines, and things of that nature. He saved the city money hand over fist being able to work on that stuff.”
Burgamy described Linch as a “very humble” man.
He said he loved Linch very much.
“He was truly what you could say was one of Eatonton’s finest,” Burgamy said, noting that Linch was regarded as the best mechanic in town for many years or elsewhere for that matter.
Graveside services and burial was held at Pine Grove Cemetery in Eatonton. Vining Ivy Hill Funeral Home was in-charge of all arrangements.
The late fire chief is survived by his wife, Regina; his children, Alison, Daniel and Meredith and his grandchildren, Abby Katem and Jermiah.