(BEDFORD) – Saturday afternoon, family, friends, local and state leaders congratulated Robert Barber after more than 50 years of dedicated service in volunteer firefighting.
Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Brown, Capt. Robert Barber and Steve Anderson, board chairman of the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association.
Out of more than 50 decades in the volunteer fire service, more than 26 years of his career were spent serving with the Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department.
Barber, 75, and his wife Darlynn have a son named Douglas. His family has shared his experiences as he responded to calls, training meetings, business meetings, and other responsibilities.
“This is an occupation you live, breathe and feel,” Barber says.
Capt. Robert Barber’s volunteer service started at Madison Company #5 in Madison. He was a charter member of the Cliffy #6 Fire Department helping that department get started.
Barber described the equipment used when he first started as a firefighter.
“We had knee high, firefighting coats, hip boots, and helmet and rubber gloves. And only had 30- minute air canisters to breathe with, almost running out of the air before we even got started attacking the fire,” Barber added.
Barber’s career as a firefighter started in September of 1980 with the Jefferson Proving Grounds which had two 24 hour shifts. The Jefferson Proving Grounds closed in 1993 and transferred to the NSA Crane Fire Department. He retired on October 1, 2000.
Barber joined Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department in September 1993, serving in many different roles such as captain, safety officer, training officer, and performing administrative duties.
Chief Bob Brown awards Barber with 50 year pin.
Shawswick Fire Department presents Barber with plaque.
Shawswick Fire Chief Bob Brown described Barber’s dedication.
“Bob is probably one of the most dedicated members our department has ever had,” Brown says. “He has personally taken care of me as a fire chief. Teaching me how to handle and treat people. Honestly, he has probably forgotten more on firefighting than we will ever know.”
“He takes care of our paperwork, responds on runs, and keeps good narratives on incidents. If we ever have a major incident, Robert will be the person I would want there to document the response.” Brown continued.
Steve Nolan Public Relations Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association share a moment with Robert Barber.
The Indiana Volunteer Firefighter Association presented Barber with a 50-year pin, and lifetime membership.
Robert Barber awarded 50 year pin and Indiana State Recognition Of 50 years of Service from the State of Indiana presented by Senator Eric Koch.
Indiana District #44 Senator Eric Koch presented him a plaque for his 50 years of dedication to the community.
Senator Eric Koch and Bob Barber
Millard Jones Shawswick Township Trustee told the crowd gathered that “his dedication that makes our community better. And why, I want to better for Shawswick Township. And strive to continue to get you the resources you need to perform your jobs.”
Then, family members and firefighters described some of the experience they shared with Barber.
His son, Douglas described a few years back, when Barber’s health was not good. Barber was scheduled to have a bypass surgery at Bloomington Hospital. The day before his scheduled surgery, the alarm sounded for a medical emergency. Barber heard the call. After the third dispatch, with no one answering, he turned to his family and asked ‘do you mind if I respond?’ His son went with him on that call, knowing that it might be his father’s last call.
“But, that is what volunteers do, no matter what risking our lives for the community, Douglas added. “On this call, he did not have to do very much, but he had to go, he could not stand the call going unanswered.”
Steve Nolan Public Relations Director for the Indiana Volunteer Fire Association and Pleasant Run Volunteer firefighter described responding to a two-story house fire on Bartlettsville Road.
Nolan had to leave the scene in a tanker to get more water. When he returned, he found Barber straddling a window seal on the two-story window.
Firefighters were in salvage and overhaul mode, and smoke was still coming out of that window, and here was Barber trying to light a cigarette.