ROSSBURG — Robert “Rob” Widener I, who has served as assistant chief of the Rossburg Fire Department (RFD) Station 17 all the while his predecessor, Doug Cothran, was chief (20 years), has now taken over the top position as Cothran has retired as chief.
“I joined the Rossburg Fire Department a couple months after Doug 32 years ago,” Widener said. “Before that, I was a captain and lieutenant.”
Rob spearheaded the surprise party Saturday night that was the department’s annual appreciation banquet, which was also held to honor Cothran.
“Carla (Cothran’s wife) helped me with it,” he said.
It was during that event that Cothran handed his helmet over to Widener.
“I am looking forward to this,” the new chief said. “It’s something different…a new chapter.”
Widener, a 1988 graduate of Ansonia High School and CTC where he studied mechanics and an attendee of the University of Northwestern Ohio, where he studied diesel mechanics for a year, has been the Greenville City Schools’ bus mechanic for 24 years, and he will continue in that capacity.
Prior to that, Widener had worked as a diesel mechanic for Harold Pohl a couple of years; Kirk’s National Lease in Sidney for three years; and FMC for three years.
His father, he said, had been a mechanic and supervisor at the Ansonia Local Schools for a number of years.
Probably for the first time in RFD’s history, the top three officers are brothers. Widener’s brother, Joe, is assistant chief, and Chris, is captain, not to mention Cothran, who Widener has asked to stay on as safety officer.
Rob, who turned 50 on Nov. 9, is also the eldest of four sons of Kathy (Culver) Widener.
He is married to the former Jeri Thompson, who had a 1 1/2 year-old son, Josh Harmon, when they met.
“We met on a blind date,” said Rob. “I was a friend to Elaine Stump and Jeri worked with her sister, Bev Sexton, and they set us up to attend the Rossburg Firemen’s dance in October 1993.
“They didn’t want Rob going to the fireman’s dance stag anymore,” said Jeri, daughter of the late Darla (Riegle) Robbins and stepdaughter of Rick Robbins.”
And, the introduction worked.
They were wed June 11, 1994, and now also have twin sons they added to the family on Feb. 3, 1996, Robby II, and Jerrod.
Jeri, who emphatically stated that she is proud of her husband, is in her third year as an employee of Greenville National Bank in Ansonia. She serves on the fire department’s auxiliary.
“I knew what I was getting in to,” she said.
Widener feels Cothran left the fire department in great shape.
“We may be doing some fine tuning,” the new chief said. “We will have an officers meeting, set up goals and see what the future holds for now.”
He said Cothran obtained a lot of grants for the fire department during his tenure and he, too, has gotten two grants; one for AEDs and an REA grant last year.
Like Cothran, Widener is an instructor for training at Clark State and through Apollo in Lima. He also teaches EMS classses through Mercer Training Academy.
With all of this, he also runs part-time for Greenville Township Rescue
Firefighting appears to be in the Widener blood.
“Dad (Ron Widener) was on the department as were several uncles, Slug, Eddie, Albert and Butch; my brothers, Joe and Chris and another brother Denny, was on for awhile; sister-in-law Angie Widener; and daughter-in-law, Katherine Widener.”
Widener, whose hobbies are model railroads and watching dirt track racing, has served on the safety team at Eldora Speedway.
He loves Rossburg.
“It’s a nice quiet town,” he said. “There are not many issues going on. Most of our family lives in town.”
Rossburg Fire Department as 15 firefighters, including the two women.
“Several are EMTs and Chris and I are Advanced EMtTs, and work for Ansonia Rescue,” he said.