Friends, family mourn Callis

Published 10:32 pm Monday, July 11, 2016

A lifetime member of the Driver Volunteer Fire Department, who also designed the building the department now occupies, has died.

Fred Walker Callis Sr., 71, died of complications from a stroke on July 5 at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.

News of his death came to a surprise to his loved ones, despite his failing health in recent years.

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“He had been failing in health, but this was all of a sudden,” said Stephan Callis, Fred Callis’ eldest son.

Eva, his wife of more than 50 years, is still recovering.

“You can never prepare yourself for this,” she said. “It is hard and I don’t know what to feel.”

Neighbors and close relatives began to notice Callis was becoming less active in recent years.

“You wouldn’t see him out in the yard as often, and after a while he stopped coming to firehouse meetings,” said Joe Durick, a Driver Volunteer Fire Department retiree and friend of Callis.

Callis had served in the Vietnam War and earned two Purple Hearts. In fact, he lost a leg in combat.

After serving in the war, he decided to attend a local community college and pursue a degree in architecture. Upon graduation, he was selected to design the Driver firehouse on Bennetts Pasture Road.

He volunteered at the department for more than 20 years, at one point serving as assistant chief. Despite being limited to one leg, Callis worked hard at everything he did.

“He could do everything a man with two legs could do,” Durick said.

Callis was deeply respected and loved by his family and community. He was a man of love and care, family and friends said, but he also was known to be blunt.

“He was rough around the edges but had the softest heart,” Stephan said.

“No one had a bad word to say about him, but he definitely didn’t sugarcoat anything,” Durick recalled.

Callis’ favorite past times were fishing and hunting. He also liked to watch races at Langley Speedway. He would often go to these events with his sons.

“I’ve been hunting with him since I was seven — that’s been 42 years, said Fred Callis Jr.

Stephan was not a fan of hunting, but did enjoy fishing with his father.

“I wish we could have gone out and done more [fishing] before he got really sick,” Stephan said.

The brothers said Fred Callis was a great father.

“I could ask him anything,” Stephan said. “He taught me a lot of things. He always said you have to work for what you want and that nothing is given, but earned.”

Fred Callis is preceded in death by his parents, Sam and Jessie Callis and daughter-in-law, Doreen Hodges. His wife, Eva and his two sons, Stephan Callis and Fred Callis Jr. survive him. He is also survived by his three brothers, Whitlow, William, and George and several other relatives.

The funeral was held Monday at Sturtevant Funeral Home’s Bennetts Creek Chapel. A burial with military honors followed at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery.