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‘He lit up the world’

Thurston “Thor” Stish, of Buckingham, was remembered as a dedicated volunteer firefighter, someone who loved music and whose kindness and eagerness to help sparked many friendships.

The 19-year-old, who died on New Year’s Eve in 2015 in a vehicle accident on Woodland Church Road in Yogaville — only a few miles from his home — was honored during the inaugural Thor’s Hammer event Saturday.

The event included a chili cook off where those in attendance sampled chili made in cast iron pots and were judged by members of the community.

The event included a series of competitive tasks between volunteer firefighter organizations across the region.

Student firefighters from James Madison University traveled from Harrisonburg to compete.

The firefighters vyed for a 40-inch-tall trophy, which contains a hand holding a firefighter axe amid flames.

Dillwyn Volunteer Fire Department took home the trophy after winning the competition.

Five judges during the chili cookoff, Alexis Crews, E.M. Wright Jr., Matt Fariss, Charles White and Doug Von Achen, chose the 1080 Chili team as winners of the cookoff, which received tickets to see country music artist Zac Brown in concert.

Activities included a bucket brigade, where firefighters worked to fill a 55-gallon drum at the top of a 24-foot ladder by passing buckets of water along a line and complete a six-leg, 50-yard relay in full gear after carrying a 50-foot attack line hose.

The games demonstrate the often arduous and lifesaving tasks volunteer firefighters undergo.

George and Cassandra Stish, Thor’s parents, spoke during the event. They thanked members of the community for their support following Thor’s passing, and said the event combined all of the things Thor loved.

“It is an extension of his life and the way he lived,” Cassandra said. “It made sense to do something to benefit something he loved.”

The two encouraged participants to join and support volunteer firefighters, noting the numerous sacrifices they make on a daily basis.

“You all are truly heroes,” Cassandra said.

“We couldn’t think of anything better to honor him,” she said.

Charles “Chaz” Stish, Thor’s brother, manned a table for participants who could pledge to practice sober and safe driving in honor of Thor called Thor’s Club.

Detailing the importance of driving safely and soberly, Chaz said he hopes the efforts will help others on the road, particularly young people.

“It’s a lesson, but a hard lesson,” Chaz said. “I want to make a difference in our community.”

Other family members of Thor’s, including his grandparents, attended.

Donna Stish, Thor’s grandmother, appreciated the immense support of the community and said it was evident of Thor’s compassionate and affable personality.

“He lit up the world,” she said. “If he met you, you were his friend.”

She noted the many hours Cassandra and George put in to organize the event, and noted that Thor’s impact had inspired the hundreds of people who attended and volunteered.