David Owen Lemponen made the ultimate sacrifice on April 28, 2017, when he was struck by a vehicle while assisting emergency personnel by directing traffic at an auto accident. David was a firefighter with Austinburg Volunteer Fire Department for 60 years, including 18 years as chief. He was an arson investigator, fire and first aid instructor, and belonged to the Ashtabula County Fire Chiefs Association and the Ashtabula County Firefighter Association.
David overcame many obstacles during his childhood. Due to a fall his mother suffered during pregnancy, a doctor didn’t believe he would survive birth. He proved the doctor wrong by being born in December 1933 with no knee caps and a broken hip. Over the years, doctors formed knee caps from the bones in his feet. One leg stopped growing, and he had surgery where the doctor accidently cut the tendon in the knee. He could no longer bend his leg and used a lift in his shoe. He wore leg braces from birth through high school, but nothing could slow him down. He loved baseball and was able to pitch a “no hitter” for his high school.
David loved to golf. He always said, “It never rains on the golf course.” He made his own clubs and traveled to other states to play. His passion for humor and playing pranks would set the stage for a believable story to the end before he would smile or a twinkle in his eye would give him away. Then he would laugh, a wonderful sound that made all those around him happy. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, Grotto, and the Elks Lodge.
David loved his family. He spent hours going to his granddaughter’s events, playing golf with his son, or trading stories of service calls with his daughter, who also serves on an EMS department. Every Friday he had dinner out with his wife and friends. It was common to see his son or daughter with him on the scene of a call. One memorable call involved a cow falling into a well. David arrived, thought a moment, and said, “Cows float.” The fire department filled the well with water and floated the cow out with no injuries.
He is deeply missed by his wife, Linda Lemponen; a daughter, Lisa Lemponen-Plotz; a son, Eric Lemponen; two granddaughters, Katarina Plotz and Morgan Lemponen; two brothers, Donald and Phillip Lemponen; and a countless number of extended family, friends, and colleagues.