For 48 years, John Sing was devoted to public safety in eastern Nebraska, not just through his work in the fire department at Boys Town, but also through his professional efforts to support other first responders.

On Monday, the Boys Town fire chief and safety director went out on what would be his final call, collapsing upon his return to the station. He was 66. The cause of death has not been determined.

For years Sing served as an officer with the Tri-Mutual Aid Fire Fighters Association, where he worked closely with nearly 30 fire and rescue departments in Nebraska and Iowa that comprised about 1,600 firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians. He also was a deputy state fire marshal.

“John was what I would consider the hub of activity with fire services and mutual aid,” said Ken Ward, assistant fire chief at Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire Department. “He was a tireless and dedicated individual. There wasn’t anybody who didn’t know John.”

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The Rev. Steven Boes, executive director of Boys Town, said there’s been “tremendous grief” following Sing’s death.

“His dedication of 48 years to our kids, employees and the Village of Boys Town will honor his memory for years to come,” Boes said. “Chief Sing will be missed by all, especially the many kids whose lives have been positively influenced by his service. Please keep his family and fellow first responders in your prayers during this difficult time.”

Sing was in his late teens in 1971 when he started working in civil defense and firefighting at Boys Town. It was a natural fit for him, given his father’s many years doing diverse work at Boys Town. Paul Sing served as civil defense director and sheriff’s captain at Boys Town and helped as an attorney and a music director there.

“(John) had the opportunity to shadow to his dad, and along the way he learned and was inspired,” his wife said.

Her husband loved his work, she said, and was focused broadly on public safety, including training and interagency cooperation.

“He would put down anything, stop what he was doing to respond to any need,” she said.

Among the improvements Sing launched at Boys Town was a safety program based on new federal workplace regulations and a fire cadet program that provided skills training and career opportunities for youths at Boys Town and elsewhere. Under Sing’s leadership, Boys Town hosted cadet competitions that drew teams of teenagers from around the country, Ward said.

“It was a good teaching tool,” Ward said. “The Boys Town team was always the team to beat because John had them well-trained.”

Sing also oversaw the Boys Town Fire Brigade’s transition to a municipal fire department.

Sing is survived by his wife of 48 years, Sharon Marie (Lee), daughter Jamie McCarty, son Jason and seven grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Dowd Memorial Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, 13943 Dowd Drive, at Boys Town. It will be followed by a vigil service at 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian burial will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, also at Dowd Chapel.

World-Herald staff writer Kevin Cole contributed to this report.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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