I recently had to write up a bio for John for the IAFF LODD ceremony in September. It was due by the end of May… I pushed the send button on May 31st. I’d spent weeks mulling it over in my head… and agonizing with the question… how do you sum a not only a person’s life in a few sentences… but somebody who was such a great man to me in so many ways.
John so many things… a very skilled and talented firefighter… a guy who loved getting on his bike and riding… a man who had so many goals and aspirations… especially with the fire company– John was one of those people who not only had a vision but found the means to achieve it and he had such great intelligence, common sense and he was logical, as well as being well written (he wrote multiple federal fire grants for CFCRS and was awarded tremendous amounts of money- one of which was used to purchase a training burn trailer that now bears his name). He was on the purchasing committee for the ladder for CFCRS (as well as the rescue and an engine)… it is joked that the ladder was John’s truck, he just let everybody else play with it. John could also be well spoken (but his real talent was writing)- he wasn’t a big talker, but boy could he drop a zinger and have everybody laughing. He believed in doing something once… the right way. He spent countless hours assisting with the new fire program at the Vo Tech. He loved rope rescue and I’ll never forget how he was the go to guy when AFD had a serious wreck… the people in those vehicles quite possibly would not be alive if it wasn’t for John being given the trust and having the ability to use his rope rescue to take care of the situation. He was always calm under pressure… in all of our years together, I’d only seen him frazzled twice… one of those times was his concern for me after Nathaniel was delivered… I tore badly and all of the sudden there was a frenzy of the doctor and the nurses getting me sewn back up… for those few moments, John was scared for me. I was in too much pain, John was there for me, holding my hand and there for me, but I could tell he was worried. Even a frazzled John, wasn’t very frazzled… lol… On the volunteer side, they remember a call where there was a fully involved fire, John was first officer on the scene and in command… ammunition was exploding and the scene was chaos and you could hear John methodically and unconcerned over the radio taking charge of the situation and handling it… One day, I’ll find the audio of the call… you could hear the explosions in the background. He loved our cats and tolerated my horses because they were my love. He’d rather have nothing to do with the horses, but he was so good and patient with them when he did help me. John lived a good clean life… never touched a cigarette, and the only alcohol he ever consumed was for toasts at weddings… he never even drank a beer. It seemed a cold irony that someone like him would get cancer. He was a simple small town boy, who loved his town, his county, his state, and his country. I’d ask about going on vacation and he’d reply back with, “with a house like this why would we want to leave it,” or “we haven’t seen all of Maryland, yet.” Although he would have loved to have gone to Hawaii, but that was way out of our budget. He LOVED training with the fire company… he took every course he could, read countless magazine articles and books researching and learning… he got certified as fire instructor and was so proud when Annapolis had the academy unfortunately he was only able to help in a limited amount… our son was born and then his cancer returned. John had so much patience when it came to teaching and he expected you learn. He would spend countless hours assisting somebody who wanted to learn, but had little use for anybody who wasn’t interested… he was all business at the fire house and you had to show your worth to earn his respect. He expected near perfection of those around him (which could sometimes be challenging) but he also had the same high standards for himself. In reality, John let very few people completely into his world. Those who didn’t get to know him completely didn’t see the whole John. They probably didn’t get his sense of humor and to some people he came off as being unfriendly. I remember going with him to the volunteer house… he had a reason to be there and went in and did what he had to do and got out… he wasn’t the hang out and chat for no reason type… if he was friends with somebody he’d stop and chat and maybe share some jokes or a story, but if he didn’t know you or didn’t think highly of you… he’d walk right by. Often just because he had things to do. But, a person had to prove his/her worth to John to make him/her worth his time. He was self taught with computers and developed so many great websites. For fun, he enjoyed playing computer games like Diablo and World of Warcraft. Van Halen was his favorite band and he loved them DEARLY.
He was the best daddy ever…he lived and fought so hard for one reason and one reason only- for his little boy. His greatest fear was not dying, his greatest fear was Nathaniel growing up without a father. Little boys need their daddy’s to teach them and guide them through life, to be there to confide in and to stand strong in disciplining. There are just some things that fathers are best for… who else but a father can teach not only the the simple things like throwing a ball and explaining football, to explaining or just listening when it comes to the mysteries of women and relationships, and although it is both parents who teach a child to be a good person, ultimately it is a father who teaches a boy how to become a good men.
Nathaniel will never have those luxuries… and there are some things a mother just can’t explain to a son. He won’t even remember his father, but he does look at the world through his father’s eyes… they are that exact same greyish blue shade. It’s haunting… in some ways it brings great satisfaction and joy knowing that John lives on, but at the same time, it is heartbreaking that his father is gone and not here to enjoy watching his son grow. And at not quite two, I see so much of his father in him… he’s a thinker (although I am to), he takes time to think things through rather than crashing through things aimlessly, he wants things done certain ways (his father was anal ;-)), all doors are to be shut, and you’ll often catch him adjusting things to line them up (trust me that’s not my way), he can also work forever trying to figure out things like screw lids… he’s already managed to undo a child safe cap… I can’t get those things undone half of the time!
I’d never seen John smile so much in all of our years together as I did in the one year that he was a father. We hadn’t even really planned to have a child… at least not then… but he took to being a father like a fish takes to water!
He was a man who was not only my husband, but my best friend, my confidant, my lover, and the one true person I could rely on. John was somebody who I loved with all my heart and soul and yes… heartbreak is real. It’s hard.
I could go on and on about how great of a person my husband was… had he lived longer, I have no doubt he would have risen to greatness in the world of fire suppression. I think had he not gotten sick, 2009 would have been the year he was awarded lieutenant. I could see him writing a book or books dealing with firefighting. He no doubt would have risen to achieve much higher ranks in AFD. He had so many goals and dreams and aspirations… I was so lucky to have him in my life, and not a day doesn’t go by when I don’t miss him with all of my heart.
And of those and many more ramblings and thoughts and through many, many tears, I wrote the bio for IAFF.
Since he was a child, John’s goal in life was to become a career firefighter. He volunteered with Community Fire Company of Rising Sun and took every training class that he could. In August 2000, he achieved his dream and was hired as a firefighter for the City of Annapolis. Annapolis Fire Department was a perfect fit for him. He graduated first in his class and rose to achieve the rank of Firefighter First Class. He was assigned to the special operations (HAZMAT) team and was so proud to be an instructor for Annapolis Recruit Class #1. He was a Baltimore Ravens fan, enjoyed cycling, and was a strong supporter of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. On July 16, 2008, his life was forever changed for the better when his wife, Mary, gave birth to their only child, Nathaniel. John’s true love & passion was being a firefighter, but ultimately, I think, he would most like to be remembered as being Nathaniel’s Daddy.
I hope John would approve.