GREENVILLE — Robert E. “Bob” Rhoades, retired firefighter from the Greenville Fire Department, was laid to rest today in Harris Creek Cemetery, near Bradford, following a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Piqua this morning.
The 71-year-old Rhoades, had lived in Piqua but formerly resided in Greenville for many years. A one-vehicle accident occurring in the 9100 block of U.S. Route 36 on the afternoon of November 19 claimed his life.
Rhoades was well-respected in this area for his sense of humor as well as his skills as a firefighter and fire service educator.
“I worked and socialized with Bob for most of my adult life and the one constant was that as soon as Bob entered the room, you know in a few moments you would be belly laughing,” remarked Steve Birt, a retired fire chief for Greenville Fire Department. “He was a dedicated public servant and serving was his passion.”
Birt’s brother, Rick, was also a friend of Rhoades.
“I’ve known Robert E. Rhoades since the early ’60s and I can say unequivocally that he was one of the funniest people I have ever known,” Rick said. “He had a unique ability to spin a story, from the ‘chicken joke’ to the old couple that ‘stopped at the gas station.’ The punch line, ‘He thinks he knows you,’ always makes me fall down laughing. I’ve heard both of those stories probably a hundred times, never not hysterical.”
Rick added, “Some people probably don’t know it, but Bob was once a school teacher in Versailles, always had a love for teaching. This served him well when he made a career change to join the fire service. The fire department was his love and passion, and he loved to teach. He and Capt. Harvey Wilt were the two guys that could make hydraulics make sense. Not fun, but make sense.”
Rick concluded, “If it weren’t for Bob, I probably would not have any interest in firefighting. As it turned out, I spent 26 years with the Greenville Fire Department, 26 years of the most fun I’ve ever had. The firehouse is a magical place, and Bob was the epicenter, from being an excellent cook, but leaving the biggest mess you could ever remember. The jokes, pranks, most of which can’t be listed here. After working for the state, private corporations, Bob continued to do what he loved most, and that was to teach. Eventually, health issues started to impact Bob, not his humor, but his physical well-being. He fought these issues, tough issues, but always managed to get through it.. Hard to believe that an auto accident took his life. RIP badge 1.”
Willie Beaver, who was Greenville’s fire chief from 1971 when he was appointed until 1988 when he retired from fire service, described Rhoades as “a good guy, an outgoing man who did his job and was well-educated.”
“Him being a school teacher helped us a lot,” Beaver said. “He also worked for me at state [fire marshal’s office] and got involved with hazardous materials. He was always a good firefighter and very active in fire service. Because he was an instructor, we put him out to do teaching for us and a lot of different departments. At state, he was a field response member, from Darke County north to the Michigan line and over two or three counties to the east and straight down.”
Mindy Saylor had this to say: “Bob was a retired Greenville firefighter and an Ohio Department of Health employee. He instructed many training and facilitated exercises as a MEP, local and regional coordinator of ARES and I’m sure I’ve left some off. Bob lived his life dedicated to public safety and I know many people worked with Bob over the years so I just wanted to share. He was one of a kind with a story about everything. He’s helped train many of us.”
“Bob was our in service instructor here at Arcanum Fire Department when I first started,” stated Arcanum Fire Chief Kurt Troutwine. “He had a way to teach you, keep your attention and make you laugh. He was one of my first fire instructors here in Arcanum. It was never a dull moment with Bob around. Great times…learned a lot from him with many laughs over the years. God gained an angel that will keep all of his angels laughing. He will never be forgotten.”
Here are some more condolences posted on Zechar Bailey Funeral Home’s Guest Book:
“Gonna miss Bob on my visits,” remarked Carol Massey of Tempe, Arizona. “He was such a delight to visit with. Loved to hear all his stories.”
“It was a pleasure and honor to work with Bob at the fire marshal’s office,” said Tim Lutz of Zanesville.
“When Bob, Peg and the boys lived on Washington Avenue, I lived two houses away,” said Sharon Snyder-Fiddler of Westerville, Ohio. “I’ll never forget the time that Chris (maybe 4 or 5 years old) and the other neighbor boy pulled out all the flowers from my flowerbeds that had just been planted the day before. Bob and Peg brought Chris over to confess and apologize, and he tearfully did so. My tears are now for you.”
Tom Beatty, Springfield, sent this condolence, “One of the really nice guys of the fire service. Always ready to help anyone. A good sense of humor and a wealth of knowledge and experience blended into a great mentor. He will be missed but fondly remembered.”
“It’s never enough time spent when Bob was around,” said Capt. Kevin Subler. “He retired from the fire department in 1992 but always came back for special events and retiree parties…just to show you the kind of devotion he had to us and the job. I enjoyed knowing him and listening to his countless stories of life on shift ‘back in the day.’ The last few times he showed up on one of our scenes, I put him to work with setting out cones, kicking out kinks, starting the generator and opening hydrants. I know he was worn, but he loved it and thanked me after the fact. I’m very proud to be walking the same path he did. He and all of our retirees- for better or for worse- make this place great.”
“He was my first fire instructor here in Hollansburg 1980-83,” wrote Chief Trent Mote, “Always a good time with Bob around. Learned a lot from him and we have many great memories. He will never be forgotten.”
“The memories of those high school days spent with you are fresh in my mind,” stated Robert Hoying, Wildwood, Missouri. “The endless jokes you shared with everyone riding to school in the old Sommers station wagon.”
“The amateur radio group has lost a valuable leader,” said Larry McCoy N8JBL Dayton Red Cross.
“I was saddened to hear about Bob and Peggy,” wrote Bob Marker of Fremont, Ohio. “While I lived near them it was always a fun time. Bob was a heck of a guy and friend.”
“I grew up one door down from the Stauffer family,” commented Linda Goubeaux Grunow, Old Greenwich, Connecticut. “I must have spent a million hours with Bobby playing kickball and cops and robbers, or just sitting on the front stoop discussing the meaning of life. He did great impressions, often of the priests he served as a dedicated altar boy. He was funny, compassionate and kind. I have to believe he is in a good place today, and although I live in Connecticut, my heart is in Ohio since I got this news. My thoughts are with the entire family.”
“Bob will always be remembered for his wit, wisdom and strength through his many medical problems,” remarked Tom and Marvella Fletcher of Greenville. “Bob gave so any years to our community and he will be remembered by so many.”
“We enjoyed having the Rhoades family as neighbors for many years and share numerous great memories,” said Dick and Debby Sodders of Greenville.
This writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.
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