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Friends, family, community mourn the loss of local hero

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CRANESVILLE – Anyone who has spent time at the Cranesville Volunteer Fire Department fire hall knows his face or has heard his voice. An ever-present fixture at the fire department – whether engaging in social activities or responding to an emergency call – Walt Sumner embodied the characteristics of a local hero.

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, Sumner passed away after suffering a heart attack less than 24 hours after responding to an emergency call. As family, friends and the Cranesville community mourn the loss of a dedicated firefighter, who had climbed to the rank of Captain, local residents have set up a special memorial fund for the family.

According to local resident Heather Harpst, a memorial fund has been established at Marquette Savings Bank, located at 14 North Main Street in Albion. Anyone with questions about the memorial fund can contact (814) 756-4911 to speak with a bank representative.

In addition to leaving a legacy of dedication and perseverance with the fire department, Sumner leaves behind a caring family that includes his wife of 25 years, Jeannette Sumner, whom he married Sept. 6, 1986, two daughters, Stephanie Sumner and her fiancé, Dennis Blood, and Allison Sumner, both of Cranesville. Also surviving Sumner are a granddaughter, Layla, a sister, Tammy Reichel and her husband, Kevin, of Union City, his father-in-law Ed Skobodzinski of Cranesville, his brother-in-law, Ed Skobodzinski of North Carolina, and several nieces and nephews.

In addition to family relatives, Sumner was fortunate to call hundreds of men and women family. The men and women from dozens of fire departments throughout Pennsylvania visited the Cranesville fire hall on Wednesday, Jan. 25 to visit with the family and extend their condolences.

In reaction to Sumner’s death, several fire departments posted memorials on their websites, remembering the Cranesville captain.

On Jan. 25, Christian Karotko, chief of the Edinboro Volunteer Fire Department, posted the following on Edinboro’s website, edinborofire.org.

“Today, we lost brother firefighter and good friend Walt Sumner. Walt was a true brother to all in the fire service. Whether on the fireground or leading the torches in a live burn, he always had our backs. No matter how bad the situation, he was always right there. Our deepest heartfelt sympathy to the Sumner family and our Brothers and Sisters at Cranesville Station 60. You will be sadly missed but know you will continue to always have our back and watch over us. Rest easy, my friend.”

Nearby Lake City Volunteer Fire Company also posted a memorial for Sumner, who responded to several mutual aid calls with Cranesville in the west Erie County area. The following was posted on lakecityfire.org.

One of our brothers has passed today. Walt Sumner was a hero not only to the Cranesville community, but to all the areas of the county he responded to as [rapid-intervention teams] and the hundreds he helped train as the torch for live structure burn classes. When we were inside, we knew you always had our back. Continue to watch over us. Rest easy my brother, we got it from here. To our brothers at Station 60, stay strong, Walt will be with you on every call, watching and guiding.”

Sumner was laid to rest on Tuesday at Hope Cemetery in Wellsburg (Elk Creek Township). Memorial may also be made to the family via Mattera Funeral Home or to the Cranesville Volunteer Fire Department, 9920 Meadville Street in Cranesville.

Christopher LaFuria can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or at (814) 756-4133.

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