SHERIDAN - Friends and family of Ronald Keddie as well as firefighters from throughout Chautauqua County and some from Cattaraugus and Erie counties gathered for a fireman's service and military services in his honor Tuesday.
Keddie died unexpectedly on June 27 in the line of duty. As he was preparing to respond to a motor vehicle accident, he had a massive heart attack.
A procession including 65 pieces of fire apparatus left Mackowiak Funeral Home in Dunkirk at 11 a.m. and proceeded to the Sheridan Fire Department for the outdoor service. The casket containing Keddie's remains was transported on a Sheridan fire truck.
Fire departments from Angola and Westfield supplied the ladder trucks that formed an arch for the service for Ronald Keddie held at the Sheridan Fire Department on Tuesday.
Photo by Diane R. Chodan
An arch created by ladder trucks from Angola and Westfield with a huge American Flag hanging from it at the fire station alerted everyone to the location of the service. Fire police directed traffic along the way.
Peter Dawson, chaplain for the Chautauqua County fire chiefs, said, "How appropriate so many are here."
Dawson then delivered an opening prayer, offered words to console the family, and commented about Keddie's personality.
"He was the greatest organizer, the greatest instigator and get-things-done-guy. He left us as he lived, eagerly responding to someone else's need."
Julius Leone, director of the Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services, first spoke to Keddie's family directly, thanking Keddie's wife and children. Michael Keddie has followed his father's footsteps into the fire service, and Leone commented how proud Ronald was of his son.
Leone then spoke about how Keddie touched many people in his role as a NYS fire instructor.
"Ron taught 175 classes. At about 25 people per class, he taught 4,374 students. Ron instilled that passion for fire service. He said there is a job for everyone in the fire service."
James Crowell, chairman of the Sheridan Board of Fire Commissioners, and a longtime friend of Keddie spoke in a more personal way about Keddie's character.
"I knew him as Ronnie, a good man, husband, and grandfather. He was chief twice. The man had no hobbies. He was the face of Sheridan," he said.
Crowell recalled meeting Keddie in the 1970s and related some of their escapades. Keddie created a chant for the fire department. Crowell ended his speech by asking those present to use their loudest voices for Keddie's chant with slightly altered words.
"E-I-E-I-O; E-I-E-I-O; We miss you Ronnie we want you to know," shouted Crowell and those present echoed him.
Aaron Brinkman, current Sheridan fire chief, recalled he was 8 years old when he first met Keddie. Brinkman said Keddie had a deep growling voice that was unmistakable.
"That voice scared the hell out of me," he said.
Keddie encouraged the young man by giving him the job of breaking a window at the first structure fire at which Brinkman served.
"I believe it is times like this that define us. We stand up and fight and carry on," Brinkman concluded.
To a bagpiper's rendition of "Amazing Grace," those attending the service gave a final "slow" salute to Keddie.
The Joint Veterans Council provided military honors, including a gun salute, and presented an American flag to Keddie's widow, Kathleen.
Beside fire service personnel, many community members and dignitaries attended the ceremony.
Louis Delmonte Sr., Sheridan town supervisor, said, "This is a loss to the community." and recalled Keddie's help setting up memorial services.
Assemblyman Andrew Goodell and state Sen. Catharine Young also attended the service.
Sen. Young said, "He was a personal friend. I looked up to him and admired all he did for the community. When I think of the fire service, Ron is the first person who comes to mind."
Goodell commented that he was glad that so many people turned out for the service to honor a man who was so important to the community.
County Legislator Robert Duff said, "It is important to honor the firefighters for all the real dangers they go through. I hope that people understand and respect that."