Emergency responders in East Tennessee are mourning the loss of a man they call a mentor, educator and staple of the community.

Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad member Ronnie Patterson died of a heart attack Wednesday night after celebrating Christmas with his family.

Patterson taught hundreds of emergency responders for more than three decades. People who knew him said it was his calling to help anyone, any way he could.

Throughout his career, Patterson helped operations in Knox, Blount, Loudon and several other east Tennessee counties. His students say he'll have a lasting impact inside and out of his field.

"He helped a lot of people that probably never knew Ronnie ever helped him. If there was a family was having a hard time at Christmas, they might get an extra Christmas basket, their kids might get toys, that probably came from Ronnie Patterson," said Ed Cate who is retired from Rural/Metro.

Funeral arrangements for Patterson have not been finalized.