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Rockdale Fireman's Memorial
Story by Rockdale Reporter - Mike Brown (8/4/2016)
For 144 years they’ve kept Rockdale safe. Two of them gave their lives in those efforts.
They are the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department and a memorial honoring all of them [was] dedicated at the [Rockdale Volunteer] fire station [at the] corner of Wilcox and Bell.
The memorial’s northern slab contains only two names and it’s the RVFD’s goal to keep it that way. [The memorial is] to commemorate deceased firefighters: Wilbur Williams and J. W. Hooper are the department’s only two members who have lost their lives while on duty, dying Sept. 3, 1935.
The center slab commemorates the service of all RVFD volunteers throughout the years. Inscribed on the northern slab is an inspirational poem.
Fire Chief Ward Roddam said [in 2014] he came up with an idea for a permanent memorial at the station -- one that would honor every Rockdale firefighter in history with special emphasis on Hooper and Williams.
"As we move through time, we’ve often forgotten those who have come before us and the sacrifices they’ve made," he said. "I didn’t want that to happen to the RVFD."
Roddam said he approached Rockdale Memorial Company and found the Luckey family Paul, Carol and Linda highly supportive and the effort got into high gear. "They donated the monument stones, the labor for forming and finishing the concrete and all the installation," he said. The Luckeys also helped secure other donors for the project.
Roddam listed donors who helped make the memorial a reality as follows:
- Rockdale Memorial,
- Rockdale Building Materials Center,
- Miguel Hernandez,
- Roger Whitmore,
- Wallace and Cheryl Jones,
- Jeff and Kelly Pickel,
- Hill Country Electric Supply,
- Cheryln Ellis,
- Earl and Dixie Whitmore,
- Jason and Carol Worley
Roddam said the memorial can have differing interpretations, depending on who is viewing it. "Since taking the position of fire chief, one of my main goals has been to ensure the entire family is a part of our department," he said. "Our department has second, and even some third, generation firefighters in it. I believe this memorial stands not only for the firefighters that have volunteered their time, but for their entire families."
The [2016 dedication] memorial service will included the history of the department, the story of Hooper and Williams and general information regarding the department.
There are hundreds of stories which hint at the dedication of Rockdale’s volunteer firefighters over the past century and a half. But there’s one ironic story that probably exemplifies their ’get right back up on the bronc that throws you’ spirit the most.
In 1935, Hooper and Williams died before dawn on a Tuesday morning. Both funerals were held the next afternoon. Hooper’s was held at First Baptist Church and his body was then taken to Taylor for Masonic services and burial. Rockdale VFD’s newest fire truck led the procession, and almost the entire department went along for that sad trip. As they came back into Rockdale, late that afternoon, they rolled up on.... Yes, a house fire, the C. C. Gibson home near the football field. The RVFD, in their dress clothes, all of them heartsick, most of them physically and emotionally worn out from the events of the past day and half, stopped ... and put out the fire.
It’s what they do.
It’s what they’ve done for 144 years.
We Salute you you Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department.
301 N Wilcox Avenue, Rockdale