From his eulogy:
To know Ralph Vance was an experience‚ period. It was an experience in the emotions that make up life – laughter‚ anger‚ frustration‚ and satisfaction. It was an experience in learning and personal growth and accomplishment. It was an experience in facing the more important values of life and putting others’ needs first.
Ralph was a FIREMAN‚ with a capital F. He’d have made a great movie. It would be full of drama‚ heroism‚ compassion and comedy. And the lead would be played by Clint Eastwood. He never took unreasonable or foolish chances‚ never endangered others‚ never lost his head. Yet he never hesitated to ACT in order to save lives or property. He demonstrated courage‚ skill‚ and concern for others in everything he did.
He believed in God‚ country‚ motherhood‚ and apple pie‚ and he exemplified typical old-fashioned values. He was devoted to his wife and family‚ and despite his love for the fire department‚ there was never any question that they came first in his heart.
He had little tolerance for injustice‚ carelessness‚ laziness‚ and lack of caring or dedication from firefighters. On an emergency scene‚ he believed in getting the job done correctly and it wasn’t important to him who did what or which assignment he had – he only wanted Elk Creek to perform well.
No one who knew Ralph had any doubt as to his values or where he stood on any given issue. No one would ever say he was reluctant to voice an opinion. Usually mild mannered and easy going‚ he could turn into a raging bull over something that was important to him. He stood up for what he thought was right.
Despite his sometime blustery manner‚ Ralph demonstrated unparalleled patience and teaching skills to volunteers and especially to women. He never pretended to UNDERSTAND women-he probably did his share of complaining about them. But he recognized that women were of real value to a volunteer fire department. And he provided the encouragement and support that helped women find their place in what is typically viewed as a man’s world. His training extended beyond specific instruction into example‚ and the problem solving and driving techniques he taught stick with us long after our days on the department.
The time and dedication he gave to Elk Creek Fire Department (32 years) clearly demonstrates his generosity. This was not just a hobby‚ not an antidote for boredom‚ and not a substitute social life. Ralph truly BELIEVED in the department’s cause. He knew the purpose of a volunteer fire department was to save property and lives in the community‚ and he was willing to make the ultimate commitment towards providing that service.
Ralph Vance died as he lived-providing help to others.
From his wife: Volunteer firefighter. Retired airline pilot. Deeply involved with trains (both real and models)‚ classical music‚ and antique Cadillac cars. He always said he wanted to die with his boots on‚ and he did‚ responding to a chimney fire in the line of duty. And the mountains cried for the loss since he was a mountain man.