Former Memphis Fire Department deputy director dies from COVID-19


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Former Memphis Fire Department deputy director Claude Talford has died due to COVID-19. He was 65.

Talford served the community for decades before dying Thursday morning.

“You think that somebody is going to recover because they have a simple cough,” said his daughter, Ashley Talford, “but they can go in the hospital one day and not come out the next.”

Talford tested positive for COVID-19 days before Christmas and died two weeks later.

“It just took a turn really quickly,” Ashley said. “So, we went from Facetiming to small text messages to none to having to say, ‘I love you,’ within like 10 seconds because I’m about to go on a ventilator.”

Sadly, Talford is one of more than 1,000 people to die from COVID-19 in Shelby County.

He dedicated his life in service working as the deputy director of the Memphis Fire Department and later as the director of the Lakeland Office and Shelby County Office of Emergency Management.

“It was very devastating for me because, again, Claude Talford was a very personal friend of mine,” said Brenda Jones, director of emergency management. “We graduated high school together. We’ve known each other over 40 years. It was very devastating and unbelievable for me because I had just talked to him.”

The Carver High School graduate was proud of his community, full of passion and positivity in all he did.

“He cared about everybody that he was around. Whether it was family or friends or coworkers,” said Misty Haley, operations manager of Shelby County Emergency Management. “He was really giving and loving and just a really nice guy to be around and a very positive spirit.”

But to his wife Jane, he was a husband. To his daughter Ashley, he was Daddy: a man who can’t be replaced.

“My relationship with him, it was one of a kind,” Ashley said. “I feel like from the day that I was born until the day he told me, ‘I love you’ before he went on that ventilator, he was the best.”

The family says they hope people will think of those who have died from COVID and wear their masks.

Mayors Jim Strickland and Lee Harris both calling today a grim milestone asking for everyone to do their part to keep others safe.

The Memphis Fire Department released a statement on Talford’s death:

We are at a lost for words over the unexpected passing of retired Deputy Director Claude Talford. During his tenure with the Memphis Fire Department, he made an imprint that can never be erased. He will be greatly missed by the brothers and sisters of this department. We extend our sincere prayers to his family and friends. Rest in Peace Retired Deputy Director Claude Talford. 

Gina Sweat, Director of the Division of Fire Services

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