Retired Master Firefighter Anthony “Tony” Cooke
Virginia Beach, Va., Fire Department via Facebook

Virginia Beach, Va.'s first African-American firefighter, retired Master Firefighter Anthony "Tony" Cooke, has died, WAVY reports.

The Virginia Beach Fire Department issued a statement Wednesday expressing "much sadness" about Cooke's passing.

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"To say that Tony served with distinction during his 25 years with the fire department is an understatement and does not even begin to describe the legacy he leaves to both VBFD and the citizens of Virginia Beach," the statement read.

Cooke became the first African-American firefighter in Virginia Beach in 1976, though, as the Fire Department noted, he preferred to be recognized as the first "black" firefighter.

A few years later, the department awarded Cooke the medal of honor after he rescued four children from a fire.

Cooke also served in the U.S. Army, including a tour in Vietnam.

"Master Firefighter Cooke will be laid to rest with full honors and with deep admiration by the Virginia Beach Fire Department. More details about the ceremony will be provided as soon as they are finalized," the department's statement concluded.

Read more at WAVY.