November 7, 2018

KEY LARGO — Longtime firefighter Capt. Dwight “Ike” Beal, who served Monroe County Fire Rescue, the Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department and the Key Largo Volunteer Ambulance Corps for more than 30 years, died on Oct. 28 after a six-year battle with stomach cancer. He was of 73.

Beal was heavily involved in the Upper Keys community as a firefighter and retired from Monroe County Fire Rescue as battalion chief in 2011. He was diagnosed with a rare gastro-intestinal tumor the following year.

Beal and wife Karen moved from the Pittsburgh area to the Keys in 1972 on their honeymoon.

“It didn’t take Dwight long to decide that working in the sunshine near the waterfront beat out the lousy weather, high taxes and his job as a milling machine operator. This is when Dwight became ‘Ike’ and started growing that crazy mustache,” Karen said.

“Ike started an Explorer’s program, Honor Guard, Marine Emergency Response Team, which links the U.S. Coast Guard, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department and other resources to local EMS/fire departments, and the Key Largo fire department’s dive team for rescue and recovery services to our community.”

Monroe County Fire Rescue Chief James Callahan said, “Ike was a good firefighter, he was a dedicated officer and a really good man. A lot of people respected him and he’ll be missed by many.”

Rob Bleser, who was captain of the fire department dive team, began diving with Beal in 1974.

“Ike was a dear friend who I have known for a long time. He will be sorely missed,” Bleser said.

The Beals recently divided their time between Key Largo and Pennsylvania to visit with their two sons and seven grandchildren.

Family and friends will gather at a private ceremony to celebrate Beal’s life on Monday, Nov. 12.

tjava@keysnews.com