Jeffrey D. Hengel

Jeffrey D. Hengel

Submitted by his mother

Our son‚ Jeffrey Hengel‚ was 20 years old when he died in a van accident returning home from a fire in Idaho on August 24‚ 2003. He was a 6’7’‚ 260 lb. lovable man with a heart to match. He was very giving of himself and loved to see others happy.

He was an honor roll student‚ played baseball and some football‚ and was an excellent marksman. In high school he was an officer in FFA and traveled to Kansas City for the FFA National Convention. At the end of his senior year‚ he traveled to Germany for 8 weeks in the German exchange program. He was hoping to return there in the next year or two.

Jeff loved to cook. It was his passion from 4th grade on. So I wasn’t surprised when he wanted to pursue this after graduating from high school in 2001. He graduated from Western Culinary‚ Portland‚ Oregon‚ in November 2002 and did his externship in New Orleans at Arnaud’s‚ a well known five star restaurant.

In May 2003‚ he and a friend drove back home‚ stopping to see the Grand Canyon‚ Yellowstone Park‚ etc. He didn’t spend much time though‚ because he wanted to get home for his second season of fire fighting. He had worked for First Strike Environmental the summer before he went to culinary school from which he saved all his money to help put himself through school. This summer he was looking to save money for a trip to France. He also had signed up to go to Antarctica for a year to cook for the scientists which he was hoping to leave in October. But he also loved the outdoors and the comradeship with the other firefighters.

Anyone who knew Jeff remembered him for his big hugs. He would make anyone feel petite. If someone was hugging someone else‚ Jeff was right there to join in. He was always ready to help anyone who needed help. He was loyal to his friends and loved his only brother and sibling‚ Peter‚ very much. He was a very intelligent man‚ who‚ with God’s guidance‚ accomplished so much in his short life.

I miss us dancing together‚ the long talks‚ metal detecting‚ fishing‚ eating pizzas‚ wrestling and laughing. I miss his wisdom and playfulness. I miss the sound of his footsteps and his daily phone call home. And‚ as requested‚ I will add all of the nicknames which others remember him by–The Bear‚ Ogre‚ Otto‚ Wookie‚ Nutter Butter. He had definitely made the world a better place and he will forever be missed.

Richard W. Black

Richard W. Black

Submitted by his wife

Dick died on October 14‚ 2003. He was killed when the helicopter he was flying in to scout water holes for future forest fire suppression activities crashed near Swisshome‚ Oregon. Dick’s love for flying was only surpassed by his love of family‚ friends and life itself. Dick served in the Army for 6 years with a tour in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. Among his awards of service were the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Dick had recently received an award from the Oregon Department of Forestry for discovering and initiating an attack action on the Orchard Road Fire in Lorane‚ Oregon. He flew fires in Idaho‚ Montana‚ California‚ Washington and Oregon. Dick enjoyed his wife and two sons‚ friends‚ tennis‚ skiiing‚ rafting‚ biking and cooking. His presence brought joy to all who knew him.

Thomas W. DiOrio Sr.

Submitted by his family

On November 30‚ 2003‚ Thomas W. DiOrio‚ Sr. died doing what he loved‚ volunteering as a Fire Policeman. He sacrificed his own interests during his entire life to provide for his family. Two years after retiring in 1991 from Conrail‚ he started volunteering for West Whiteland Fire Department as a Fire Police Officer. He became passionate about it immediately. In the 10 years he volunteered‚ he reorganized that department and became Lieutenant in 1999. Tom was to become Captain just weeks after his passing. The West Whiteland Fire Department has established the Thomas W. DiOrio‚ Sr. Fire Police Officer of the Year Award to be awarded every year.

Tom was always there for anyone in need. He dedicated his life to providing and caring for his family. He was a great husband to his wife Doris for 48 years‚ taking her everywhere from doctor’s appointments to the hairdressers. Doris has had several occurences of breast cancer and Tom was always on top of her appointments‚ checkups‚ medications and even did extensive research to find her best options. We are happy to say that Doris is doing very well and recently got a clean bill of health.

Tom was a great father. He was a fantastic role model and very loving to his four children‚ Linda‚ Lisa‚ Leslie‚ and Tom‚ Jr. If a firm hand was needed‚ we got it‚ if a shoulder to cry on was needed‚ we got it. We all knew we were loved and the most important thing in his life.

Tom‚ or ‘Poppy’ as he was called carried that over to his grandchildren‚ Tim‚ Evan‚ Alyssa‚ Stephen‚ Anna‚ Samuel and Thomas III‚ his other passion in life. He was the first one there on those occasional Emergency Room visits – especially in the middle of the night. If they needed medicine‚ diapers‚ formula‚ or whatever‚ Poppy was there. Poppy’s truck was the highlight of every visit. When he would leave‚ the grandkids would always say‚ ‘Do the lights‚ Poppy‚ do the horns.’

Watch out if a snow storm was coming. You could count on a phone call from Poppy making sure you had flashlights‚ water‚ milk‚ bread‚ etc.‚ etc. It became a constant joke in the family along with‚ ‘Which way are you going’ and ‘Watch out for the deer.’

Tom was born on September 24‚ 1933. He was the son of the late Nicola and Mary DiOrio‚ growing up in Wayne‚ PA. Tom graduated from Conestoga High School. He served in the Army during the Korean Conflict. He worked for Conrail for 38 years‚ starting as a clerk and retiring as Assistant Director of Data Processing.

Tom‚ ‘Dad’‚ ‘Poppy‚’ will be desperately missed by all who knew him. His family is beyond proud of all he has given and will continue to give. Loving‚ compassionate‚ selfless‚ dedicated and giving are just a few words to describe Thomas W. DiOrio‚ Sr. We love you and miss you.

The family would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to Chief George Turner and the entire West Whiteland Fire Company for all they have done for us.

Keith Robert Hess

Keith Robert Hess

Submitted by his family

Keith Hess‚ known to his family and friends as son‚ brother and now hero‚ was one of the kindest‚ most gentle men you would ever meet. Keith was killed in a house fire on January 20‚ 2003. He was 22 years young.

Keith had firefighting in his blood‚ a grandson of firefighters. He lived and breathed firefighting. Keith was a paid firefighter for the Fannet-Metal Fire Department and once he left his work he would drive to West End Fire & Rescue (WEFR) where was a volunteer. On that drive home he would check in with his parents and sister to see what was going on that night. There were very few nights when we missed seeing each other.

Keith played a large role in his community with his volunteer work. Keith was a Lieutenant at WEFR‚ and he played a large part in the Child’s Dream Weekend‚ as well as most other community functions. Keith was always willing to help with everything and he respected both young and old members‚ and they respected him just the same. Keith earned honors as Rookie of the Year and Firefighter of the Year for WEFR.

Keith also enjoyed hunting‚ riding his four-wheeler‚ driving his 1984 Dodge Ram pick-up which he totally restored‚ and spending time with his family.

Keith is missed each and every minute of every day. Keith was supported‚ wholeheartedly‚ by his parents Bob and Judy‚ his sister Chrissy‚ and his brother-in-law Lance. We were always proud of Keith with each and every goal he accomplished‚ no matter how big or small. We are so proud of the person Keith had become. He was a respected firefighter‚ a wonderful son and brother‚ and a caring‚ honest man who touched more lives than we can begin to imagine.

Keith is survived by his proud parents Robert and Judith Hess‚ his sister and brother-in-law Chrissy and Lance Hoover‚ and his niece Laci Renea Hoover (who he never had the chance to meet or hold). All of Keith’s surviving family reside in Shippensburg‚ Pennsylvania.

A memorial fund has been established in Keith’s name. The memorial fund provides scholarships to young men and women who wish to pursue a career in Fire Service or in the medical field. The memorial fund also contributes money to the Child’s Dream Weekend‚ a program that Keith supported and participated in every year. Money for the fund is raised through a memorial golf tournament in Keith’s memory. Keith’s passion and spirit will live forever!

Randall Bonito Jr.

Submitted by the Whiteriver Agency

As a seasonal wildland firefighter‚ Randall dedicated his efforts to the protection of his ancestral homelands‚ of the White Mountain Apache Tribe‚ from wildfires. Off the job‚ he devoted his time to his wife and two sons. Randall‚ also known as Stumbo to family and friends‚ shared his time with this family by fishing‚ camping and hunting on the reservation.

Randall’s passion for life‚ family and friends will remain in our hearts and minds for generations. Thank-you Randall for a job well done.

Carl G. Dolbeare

Carl G. Dolbeare

Submitted by his mother

If one was trying to locate Carl‚ the first place to find him was at the airport or outdoors in the farthest camping area. If he was at the airport‚ he was generally working on his plane or catching up on small talk with his coworkers.

Carl’s love for airplanes was beyond anyone’s comprehension. He started flying during his teenage years. His knowledge and ability to fly several aircraft grew as Carl was growing. He was rated in the PV2‚ B17‚ DC4‚ DC7‚ C119 and Turbine Thrush. He also was a crop duster in his earlier years spraying the fields in Arizona.

Carl fought the fires in Yellowstone National Park‚ Rodeo-Chedinski‚ Grand Canyon‚ and the Oakland Oil Slick. He also flew to combat the Mediterranean fruit flies in Mexico‚ San Jose and Africa.

Carl came to Arizona in 1977 for a crop dusting job and ended up calling Arizona his home. He loved the Arizona outdoors and if he was not in his airplane‚ he was out camping and hunting. He was a dedicated outdoorsman who knew Arizona’s playground without using a map.

During the winter months when Carl was not flying or camping‚ he would drive 18-wheelers coast to coast for several companies. It was hard for the owner to give up Carl to return to his love of flying.

At the time of his death‚ October 3‚ 2003‚ Carl worked for Minden Air Corporation based in Minden‚ Nevada. He was doing what he loved and saving our planet.

Carl was known for three things: flying‚ driving 18-wheelers and being an outdoorsman‚ but Carl also had other loves; Mexican food‚ his two cats‚ watching movies and visiting with friends. He loved to tell stories and his usage of adjectives made the stories better.

To the older generation‚ Carl was known as a son‚ a nephew and a hard worker. To his generation‚ Carl was known as a brother‚ cousin‚ friend‚ coworker and great guy. To the younger generation‚ Carl was simply known as ‘Uncle Carl.’

Randy K. Hill

Submitted by his mother

Randy Hill was one of the most dedicated firefighters anyone would want to have and serve as their Fire Department Chief. He died while in intensive training at the county-wide training held monthly. The men had just returned from the three (3) mile walk. He collapsed and was rushed to the hospital across the street. He had a fatal heart attack. He was our beloved and only son‚ and brother to his only sister. We miss him so much.

Randy was 43 years old at the time of his death. He had been with the local volunteer fire department since its inception about 18 years ago. If he was anywhere within hearing distance to receive signals to his pager‚ he would be the first one on the site. Randy spent many untold hours working at the fire station‚ usually‚ trying to repair the older trucks and making sure the trucks were ready to move at first call. He attended every type training class that was offered and we have his many certificates hung on his room wall in his memory.

Randy was employed by the Town of Hiltonia as the water superintendent where his local fire station is located. He always gave 100% in whatever he attempted whether it was being the best son‚ brother‚ family member‚ friend‚ or to his employer. His friends will vouch for all the donated hours over-seeing the construction of their new houses. He refused any pay‚ it was simply done from the heart. His funeral only proved the friends he had developed such closeness with‚ whether working relations or just close pals. All of this combined helped to make our loss more bearable for us.

We were so honored‚ (as Randy would have been‚ could he have known)‚ to have a fireman’s burial! It was so impressive and heart rendering. What an honor for him to have been a part of such a powerful organization.

From the bottom of our hearts‚ THANK YOU!

The Randy Hill family.

Gary D. Boyert

Gary D. Boyert

Submitted by his family and brother firefighters

When I think of Gary‚ all I see is a smile. He was always smiling and always laughing. Gary knew life was precious and he did his best to live his life to the fullest. Of course‚ this required that he help anyone whom he thought needed it. I was one of those people on a number of occasions. Some of us never understood his way of love‚ which was just to give and give and give; and when someone did something really horrible to him‚ he gave some more.

I believe I owe a lot of where my life has led me to Gary. I went to high school expecting to run into Gary at events‚ knowing he would have something funny to say or at least a good story. After I went away to college and came back‚ not knowing what to do with life‚ I’m pretty sure my chosen career is due‚ mostly‚ if not entirely‚ to Gary. I didn’t know any other firefighters other than Gary. I believe his outlook on life was due in part because the fire department allowed him to help even more people and to see the results of doing so. I strive in my life to see how fun it is to live. Gary showed everyone exactly how that was done.

My heart is heavy with sadness for the loss of a wonderful person. Gary did exactly what God wanted. Gary tried to make the world a better place. God now has a little more help in heaven and we all know Gary is still smiling and helping anyone up there who needs it.

Thank all of you for sharing Gary’s time with me. God be with us all.

Josh Huyett and family

My wife and I lost a friend today
And we don’t know why.
And as we sat their in disbelief and shock‚
The tears rolled down from our eyes.

I had no answer to her question‚
When she tearfully said‚
Why does God always take the good ones‚
And leave us with the bad.

Because you see‚ Gary was always there‚
With a smile or a laugh or to lend a helping hand‚
He didn’t claim to have all the answers‚
But‚ he always tried to understand.

Gary‚ you will be missed‚ but surely not forgotten‚
Because‚ whenever we see a fire truck‚
or a firefighter dressed in blue‚
We will bow our heads in reference‚
And yes – we’ll think of you.

– Brothers in the Flame

Jason Lee Ellis

Jason Lee Ellis

Submitted by his wife

A volunteer fireman with the Loretto Fire Department‚ Jason Lee Ellis died on May 28‚ 2003‚ as a result of injuries sustained in an accident during training at the State Fire Academy. Only thirty-years old at the time of his death‚ Jason touched the lives of many people in a very profound way during his short life. Public service was noble to him‚ and as both a volunteer fireman and a full time law enforcement officer‚ he exemplified the word service like few others can emulate.

Jason was born to Brenda and Woody Ellis‚ of Loretto‚ Tennessee‚ just two days before Christmas in 1973. Much like being a Christmas gift that year to his then six-year-old sister‚ Kim‚ he lived his entire life that way — as a gift to other people — always giving‚ always sharing.

He attended Loretto High School where he was very active in the music‚ drama‚ and sports programs. Like life‚ Jason tackled acting with gusto and threw himself into several plays‚ including the lead role in Tom Sawyer‚ a drama which garnered rave reviews. And in addition to being awarded a music scholarship his graduating year‚ he also was a very valuable member of the school’s tennis team.

At only nineteen years of age‚ he began his public safety career with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department. Jason had the unique ability to excel in whatever job he was asked to do‚ so it’s no wonder that in less than ten years he had been promoted four times. Beginning work as a Corrections Officer‚ he also served as a Communications Officer‚ Patrol Officer‚ DARE Officer‚ and Training Officer Sergeant. By coming up through the ranks‚ even in a relatively short period of time‚ Jason offered those with whom he worked a very unique perspective — he fully understood the intricate details and duties of each position subordinate to his own; and as a supervisor‚ he readily identified and compensated for the weaknesses of others.

As a volunteer fireman‚ Jason just wanted to help. He joined the Loretto Fire Department‚ and he was the one you could immediately count on — to always be at the meetings or to complete the more undesirable‚ menial tasks of equipment maintenance without being asked and without complaint — Jason simply epitomized service and sacrifice above self.

His death — so unexpected‚ so accidental — at such an early age sent shock waves throughout our community. The days and weeks after Jason’s death were so incredibly hard — they were the saddest days of my life‚ and I survived only with the concern‚ support‚ and prayers of my family‚ Jason’s family‚ and our many‚ many friends. Those first few days were a blur as I struggled to cope through the heavy fog of grief and sadness‚ but I met so many people whom Jason had touched. You see‚ if you knew Jason‚ you liked Jason — it was that simple — he never had an enemy‚ and he never met a stranger. Even though heartbroken and stricken with such grief‚ I marveled at the number of children from throughout the County who attended his memorial service; so many‚ in fact‚ we held it in the local high school gymnasium to accommodate all of those who wanted to bid their friend and role model farewell.

But Jason did not leave us altogether. I was three-months pregnant in May when Jason died‚ and six months later‚ looking down from his heavenly abode‚ Jason became the proud Daddy of a beautiful baby girl‚ Savannah Lee Ellis. I hope she always knows the kind‚ gracious‚ and wonderful man her Daddy was; although words can’t express what he means to me and our families‚ Jason had this unique‚ innate way of being very special to everyone he met‚ and he certainly made this world a better place for us all.

Ronald L. Holmes

Ronald L. Holmes

Submitted by his wife

Ronald Holmes was a Firefighter/EMT who worked for the North Platte Fire Department for 18 years. He was 43. He died August 6‚ 2003‚ driving an ambulance on the interstate while transporting a patient to the hospital when he was rear-ended by a semi-truck.

He was on the retirement‚ bargaining‚ hazardous materials‚ and truck committees. While on the truck committee he toured other fire stations to look at trucks. He made recommendations on specifications and equipment when the fire department ordered their fire truck. He was a union member. He had also been the secretary and vice-president of the union. He enjoyed collecting money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association during the annual Firefighters’ Boot block.

He was so proud when he hired on the fire department. He loved being a firefighter and was excited about the possibility of having a HazMat team. He continued his education‚ attending several HazMat training courses and was working to develop a HazMat team. He helped with the grant applications and purchasing the HazMat equipment. He was temporarily appointed as a lieutenant from August-November 2002. His goal was to become a Captain and head up the HazMat team. He was responsible for keeping records on all the fire hose. He helped train the new hires on the fire truck and taught them to run the pumpers.

His fellow firefighters remember a friend‚ a dedicated‚ knowledgeable firefighter eager to help‚ and a family man. His family remembers an easy going‚ intelligent‚ confident‚ caring and loving man. He was a devoted husband and father.

He served in the Navy from 1978-1982.

He enjoyed Nebraska football and taking his family to the games. He was a big Nebraska Cornhusker football fan. He enjoyed NASCAR and watching educational programs. He enjoyed reading and had a thirst for knowledge.

Ron and I were married 18 years. Our daughter Chelsea is 15. She is so much like her father. My niece‚ Kimberly‚ lived with us. She moved in as a freshman and lived with us during her high school years and two years of college. We think of her as one of ours and her daughter Alyssa is thought of as our granddaughter. She understands that is in Heaven with God. She doesn’t say much‚ but whenever she sees something with the Nebraska Cornhuskers she makes reference to that being papa’s favorite team. She is 5 years old. His face would light up when talking about the girls. He enjoyed spending time with this family. Ron leaves behind a strong and independent family because of his strength‚ encouragement and love.

We miss his smile‚ his voice and hearing him say ‘I love you’ every day. We miss him. He had a big heart and enjoyed life. Ron was my life and my best friend.

Oceans and oceans of love.