As you know from reading my website, I was once a fireman. I started that career many years ago in the early 1980's. In the last few of months I have lost a couple of friends from that earlier time that I believe are worth mentioning.
Leon Reece died in November, 2016. He was only 72 years old. He was a fireman for about 26 years I think. He was one of the first two paramedics that Bentonville had. At that time, every time there was an ambulance call, either he or the other medic had to meet the ambulance if one of them wasn't already on it. That lasted about a year. Leon was promoted to fire chief in about 1987 when Chief Jerry Griffith retired. He served in that position until his retirement in 1999. Leon played in a local band called the UpTights. They were pretty good for Bentonville 1960's standards, and they continued to play for many years, often to the old Bentonville High School alumni crowd, who really appreciated them the most. As Leon often said, " We aren't very good, but we sure are loud."
Leon was what is known as "a good old boy." He liked to hunt but from what I hear, he especially enjoyed being the camp cook at deer camp every year.
Then within a few months, another friend gone. Bobby Joe Elsea died in February. Bobby Joe was only 70. Although he was a few years older than me, we both went to paramedic school at Springdale Hospital in 1986 and 1987. If you looked up "laid back" in the dictionary, I'm sure Bob's picture would be there. He was the very definition of the term. Bob was nearly always seen with a Marlboro 100 hanging from his lips and his glass of sweet tea. Although Bob tried to burn me up one time and drown me a second (email me for the details) I don't think I ever saw him lose his temper. He served for 20 years before medical troubles caused him to bow out of the career he loved so much.
Both Leon and Bob had long careers with the Arkansas National Guard, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 142nd Field Artillery.
I know a lot of people won't know them and won't remember them once they have faded from memory. But they meant a lot to this community while they were here, and that's something we should never forget. They served in the military locally, with the fire department in our city, and as paramedics for our ambulance service giving comfort to the sick and injured. I know I won't forget. I'll sit on the curb and cheer the true heroes in our lives - those that help and protect us here, in Bentonville.