Solemn firefighters from Berkeley, Livermore and Pleasanton will march through the streets of Berkeley Saturday morning, honoring one of their own, Jay Walter Randall.
The 54-year-old, 15-year B.F.D. veteran died April 6, losing his battle with cancer, a disease that strikes firefighters so frequently that such cases are ruled as a matter of law to be occupational illnesses, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.
The Saturday procession begins at 10 a.m. at Station 5 at Derby Street and Shattuck Avenue. From there, firefighters will march to Allston Way, then west to Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and then north to Addison Street and St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, 1640 Addison, where the memorial service will begin at 11 a.m.
Born in Westwood in suburban Los Angeles, Walter lost both his parents in childhood. After attending the University of Southern California and UC Irvine, Walter joined the army, serving as a member of the elite Special Forces Pathfinders, where he was also trained as a medic.
After two tours of duty in Vietnam, he trained as a paramedic at UCLA Medical Center and began ambulance work in 1977, where he was teamed with Gerri Schmidt on her first assignment as a paramedic. They would marry four years later.
In 1985, the couple moved to Morgan Hill, where Walter volunteered for the fire department, working a full-time position as a firefighter/paramedic starting in 1988. Walter joined the Berkeley Fire Department in 1993, and was promoted to Apparatus Operator in 1981.
Walter’s assignments included service as SWAT paramedic for the Berkeley Police Hostage Negotiations Team, and he served on a variety of special squads, including the Oakland-based Urban Search and Rescue Team.
He is survived by his spouse, a daughter, Roslyn, and a granddaughter, Addison.
“We’ll miss him a lot,” said Dong. “It’s a tragic time for the Berkeley Fire Department family. We’re all going through a healing process.”
“He was a great guy,” said Daily Planet Arts and Calendar Editor Anne Wagley, who recalled conversations with him at Caffe Roma.