Captain Gary Laprad has retired. Apparently he didn’t opt for letting many people know before he left and I found out for sure after the fact. Gary Laprad, Bumpass as many call him, comes from a family of firefighters. Gary’s father, Charlie E. Laprad Sr., and his two brothers Micheal “Mikey” and Charlie “Eddie” Jr. worked for the Roanoke Fire Department. There has been a Laprad, from this family, in the FD for the past 58 years. There were some other Laprads in the department but from what I understand they weren’t all related.This picture was taken around 1994 by Maurice Wiseman in front of the Garden City Station 11. Gary was hired on February 3, 1986, his retire date will be February 1, 2007 giving him 21 years in the department. He worked his last day last week. From what I hear, he will be going to teach at a local school. Gary was most recently assigned as Captain at Station 3 on B Shift. I wish you a long and healthy retirement Gary.

Mike Overacker has posted some more photos of the breakfast on Check out the pictures here.

Yesterday, December 12th, was the second Retirees Breakfast at the Union Hall. Approximately 50 retirees attended who seemed to enjoy the camaraderie. It was really good to see all the guys enjoying each others company and able to get together in a large group to reminisce about “Back in the Day”. There were guys there who retired 20+ years ago up to our last retiree John Sweeney, who retired last month.

Willie Wines Jr. kicks off the breakfast and welcomes the Retirees

Willie Wines Sr., his buddy the Larry the “Governor”, Willie Wines Jr., Brent Berry, Wayne Hall, Stacy Boothe, and J.J. Price cooked up one hell of a spread for the guys. They should be commended for the breakfast they served to the group. We appreciate the job they have done for the second time now. Next time you see those guys be sure to say thanks.

Travis Collins, George Perdue, and Mike Overacker attended and were able to capture the event with photographs. Thanks to all the other guys who attended and helped out including R. T. Flora, Kenny Furrow, Rodney Jordan, and Jon Willdigg.

The Retirees seemed to really enjoy the event once again. I think that all the current firefighters really enjoyed seeing the “Old” guys have such a great time.

“Firefighting in Roanoke” the recently published pictorial history of the Fire Service in Roanoke was available for the guys to purchase and most of the guys got one. I think the best part of the event was that the guys were having their comrades sign the book like high school students signing a yearbook. I think that Gary Moorefield’s Wife started off the signing and she would not let anyone leave before they signed her book. There were enough stories told that day to write another book.

George Perdue signs “Big Daddy” Sullivan’s Book

There were a couple more spouses than the last one present at the event. It was great to see the excitement that they shared in their husbands careers.

After it was all over with, it was fun to kick back with the guys who had helped with the event and chew the fat. It was good to open up the Union Hall for another event. It seems as though the building is being used more and more for events. If any of you firefighters have an event coming up let us know if you want to use it.

From what I understand, the “Billy Obenchain” T-Shirts sold pretty good after the event at station 2. If you want to get a hold of one of the shirts, stop by station 2 on any shift and they will have one for you. Here are some pictures of the event, I will have the rest up on the Local site tomorrow.

The Union Hall was a packed house

The guys look over the book “Firefighting in Roanoke”

Amanda Codospoti, a reporter with the Roanoke Times, was able to interview many retirees for an article she is working on for the paper. Look for something on Friday in the paper possibly.

Captain John Sweeney is retiring from the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department after 31 years of service in the Department. John spent more than half of his time in the department at Station #2. John was hired by the Roanoke Fire Department on February 23, 1976 and is retiring with almost 31 years on the job. John is retiring from Station 11 C-Shift, where he has been stationed for the past several years. John has been a Haz Mat Specialist on the Regional Haz Mat team since it’s inception in 1985. He is a wealth of knowledge and will be missed. The Roanoke Firefighters wish him well in his retirement. John’s sons Benjamin and Brad recently graduated from the Roanoke Regional Recruit School, hired by Roanoke City. Photo left – John is seen working a fire on Ladder 2.

(above) Chuck Wells, Ronnie Renick, Brent Berry, John Sweeney,
Ricky Trout, and Kevin Bell on Ladder 2 A Shift in the early 1990′s.
Picture from Maurice Wiseman

John Dubose and John Sweeney pack up hose after a fire. – A Retirement Dinner for a Heroes Hero

Last night, over 100 firefighters, friends, and family members of Retiring Battalion Chief Billy Obenchain packed the Roanoke Fire Fighters Association Union Hall to celebrate the career of their Brother. (Read the entire article with pictures at

Yesterday morning the firefighters of Roanoke City’s Northside C-Shift Battalion learned that their beloved Battalion Chief was retiring. Battalion Chief William “Billy” Obenchain announced that he will be retiring from the job he loved. Billy stated “I wanted to be here a long time because I enjoyed coming to work”. Billy has been battling Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma for several years and has been unable to work for the past several months due to the illness. For years, his love of the job was contagious among his subordinates and often brought out the best in his firefighters. (Read More)

Battalion Chief Obenchain came around to the stations today to announce that he would be retiring. He has been battling Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma and is unable to make the comeback he was hoping for. It was an emotional meeting and he will be sorely missed.

I am working on something more, as a fitting tribute to Billy, so stay tuned.

Jeremy Evans’ last day was today. Sorry I am a little late, but it has been a busy day today. Jeremy is heading to work for the Charlottesville Fire Department. Jeremy was hired on August 31, 1998. His latest assignment was with Station 13 on B-shift, my old stomping ground. Prior to station 13, he was assigned as a Lieutenant in Training, having been promoted in 2004. Jeremy will make Charlottesville proud. Although he might be working in Ablemarle soon. Charlottesville and Ablemarle are currently studying the possibility of merging the two departments into a regional department. Does that sound familiar. While it is rumor and speculation here, it is actually in the works there. Good luck Jeremy.

Albemarle Local 4007
Charlottesville Local 2363

Captain Marci Stone has decided to leave the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department after 9 years. Marci was hired on April 21, 1997 and was the first woman to attain the rank of Captain in the department. Marci and other female firefighters in Roanoke recently had a newspaper article written about them. The article received State and National attention and was featured on The article can be viewed here. Marci just recently returned to work from maternity leave with her first child. Marci is married to Todd Stone, also a Captain with the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department.

Marci was the acting Battalion Chief of Training prior to going on maternity leave. When she returned she was assigned to the ARFF crew at Station #10 on A-Shift. Her last day is tomorrow.

We wish Marci the best in her new position as the Emergency Medical Coordinator with Lewis Gale Hospital.

The number of female firefighters in Roanoke City are now down to 7 as Marci makes the 5th woman to leave the department in the past 5 years.

Dennis Duncan at RMH ER. Photo taken by Travis Collins.

Recruit Class 15 dwindles as Dennis Duncan leaves the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department to go to PA school. Dennis began as a part-time medic at EMS-1 before he was hired on full time as a Firefighter/Paramedic with the Roanoke Fire-EMS Dept. in 1999. Dennis attended Recruit Class 15 which was held at the Jefferson Center with yours truly. We wish Dennis and his family the best with his new endeavors.
Marlan Morris was hired November 21, 1987 by the Roanoke Fire Department. Marlan is retiring as the Fire Marshal of the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department and is taking with him a lot of prevention and investigation experience. Congratulations on your retirement Marlan. Administration had a going away party for Marlan the other day. I did not make it, but I hear that it was humorous.

Pictured at Station #6 L-R is front row Bev Mitchell, Lawrence Breeding, Tommy Poindexter, back row John Proctor, Marlan Morris, Gerry “Big Daddy” Sullivan, Ronnie Cochran, and Gary Laprad.

This has been a busy week of retirements. Mike Overacker, Cecil Boyd, and Marlan Morris all have retired this week. All these retirements add up to a bigger recruit school than Roanoke has experienced in the past several years. I believe the magic number is 17 recruits this year. Of course you have to remember that Roanoke County and Salem have recruits in the school as well. I have also heard rumor of Lynchburg Fire-EMS Department actually having recruits in our recruit school. I do not know if this is true, but you never know.

Michael “Mike” Overacker is working his last day today. Mike started his career on October 22, 1982 and will be retiring with almost 24 years of service with the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. Mike is a well known photographer who has been published numerous times through the years in newspapers and calendars. Mike took a lot of pictures of fires earlier in his career and continued doing so up to this day. Mike lost a lot of images when his studio was flooded during the flood of 1985. His website hosts some of those images. I might add that he updated that site for the first time in several years last night and added pictures from some fires earlier this year.

Mike’s last day is today, call him up and wish him well.

His most recent assignment was to the ARFF company at Station #10. He was promoted to Lieutenant several years ago. Congratulations on your career and best wishes during retirement.
Pictured is Captain Thomas Burton, Randy Smith (standing on truck), and Michael Overacker. This picture was taken in the early 1990′s.

Firefighter Cecil Boyd retires after 23 years on the job. Cecil was hired August 27, 1983 worked his last day June 12, 2006. Cecil, who planned on retiring in a couple more weeks, decided when he got to work yesterday that he had worked enough. I got to work with Cecil at Station #8 for about 4 months last year. I regard him as the hardest working no nonsense firefighter I have worked with. Cecil never got wrapped up in all the politics and nonsense of the job, he just wanted to fight a little fire occasionally and he was happy. Cecil received the Firefighter of the Year award in 1993 from the Roanoke Fire Fighters Association for rescuing children from a fire on Panorama (Salem View Apartments). Congratulations on your retirement Cecil.

Authors note: unfortunately I do not have a picture of Cecil, if anyone else does, send it in.

Here are some pictures from Ed Watts retirement dinner. I do not have much information on the event. I was unable to attend due to being at work so if you have any comments on the event or well wishes for Ed leave them below.
L-R Lt. Brent Scott, Lt. Jim Hylton, Capt. Ed Watts, FF Kenny Hurt.
L-R BC Bobby Slayton, FF Jimmy Jennings (retired), FF/PM Rob Joyner.
Thanks to Jim Hylton for the pictures.

Captain Lynn Edward “Ed”Watts has retired after 30 years as a Firefighter in Roanoke City. Ed enjoyed his last day at Station #11 on B-Shift where he has worked the past several years. Ed worked at Fire Station #10 for many years prior to moving Southeast to Station #11.

Ed began his career on November 18, 1975 with the Roanoke Fire Department.

Ed was known by his peers as being carefree, and always looking to make people laugh. The picture to the left was taken around 1991.

Pictured is Captain Dalton Swanson, Lt. Ed Watts, FF Leroy Doss, and FF Stan Fielder
Picture taken by Captain Maurice Wiseman
L-R George Purdue, Matt Wheeling, Toby Bedwell, Phil Dillon, Travis Meador, Charlie Fotchman, ? in the back, Richard Lipes, Brian Conner, Willie Wines Jr., Me, Kevin Weeks, John Sweeney. Seated is Oscar Smith and Billy Obenchain. Somehow Gary Fisher missed the picture. I don’t think we missed anyone else.
This evening, I dragged Becky and the kids out to the Salem Avalanche game. The highlight was not the Avalanche though, it was actually the fact that it was Oscar Smith’s Retirement Party. It was a great time with all who showed up. It was good to see most of his crew from Station #2 C-Shift there.
Here Richard Lipes honors Oscar with his honorary Paramedic Certification. Oscar also received a gift: Bait.
L-R Oscar Smith, Billy Obenchain, Charlie Fotchman, Brian Conner, Richard Lipes, Travis Meador.
The Crew from #2 C-Shift.

I apologize for being a day late on this post. I was stuck in traffic yesterday on my way to Atlanta. So here it is.

“Oscar was hired October 25 1982 giving him 23 years and 7 months.

He was sent off with a steak dinner per tradition and will be leaving afterwards.

There are no immediate plans to replace him, but as his 1st Lt Loren Thompson said “How can you replace him” others at 2 said why would you want to have another like him. Everyone from Chief Grigsby and Hoback down to Every unit on duty came by to see him off at some point. His traditional pencil in his hat is not going to be willed or passed on to anyone, he says he may need it. Oscar is planning 3 seperate trips in the near future and plans to do ‘some’ plumbing work a couple days a week and is eventually going to move to the lake.

he seemed in good spirits and said that he doubts he’ll miss the job or the city but will miss messing with the guys and will stop in from time to time to fret them.”

Oscar was one of those guys whose demeaner and personality will be remembered for a long time. That is a good thing.

L-R Front Ronnie “Chicken” Campbell, Lewis Kennett, Oscar Smith
L-R Middle Johnnie Johnson, Charlie Fields
L-R Back John Sweeney, Jay Ransome, Billy Obenchain
So the other day, Local 1132 held the first Retirees event in a long time. The Retirees, as well as the current firefighters were invited to the Union hall to have breakfast together. Fortunately we had almost 70 retired Firemen onhand. Unfortunately we only had a handful of current firemen/firewomen on hand. All those who were present had a great time. The menu was sausage gravy, biscuits, bacon, sausage links, eggs, and hash browns.

I would have to say that the highlight for me was the fact that Jimmy Jennings picked up Pete Smith. Jimmy retired several years ago as a fireman at Station #1, and Pete (Elmer Elijah) Smith retired in 1974 as a Captain. Pete is right at 94 years old and worked for the Roanoke Fire Department for 32 years, he has also been retired for 32 years. That is what you call getting your money’s worth. Jimmy also brought Pete Price, another retired Captain.

I have heard a lot of stories over the years of many of the “old guys”, I have now met most of them. One of the very interesting things about the old guys is that almost all of them had nicknames. The nicknames were so well known that even to this day, some of the guys do not know their peers real first names.

Some of the nicknames include Scooter, Pooper, Slim, Stick, Floor Board, and Big Daddy.

I have received nothing but thanks for the Local putting on the event. I hope that the Local is able to continue putting on this event once, maybe twice a year.

Travis Collins was hoping to get a group photo of all the retirees. Unfortunately we were unable to pull it off. Logistically it was just not possible.

So thanks to all who helped. Check out the Local site to see who helped. Once we get all the pictures we will post a photo album.

Preston K. Hundley was hired on as a firefighter on January 19, 1976 (merely a year before I was born). P.K. has spent the last several years assigned to Ladder 1 C-Shift. He is retiring with 30 years on the job. It is good to see another one of Roanoke’s Bravest retire with good health. Good luck in retirement. P.K.’s last day was March 27, 2006.
L-R Eddie Carter, P.K. Hundley, Richard Carter, and Kenny Walker
The only one left out of this picture is Kenny, the rest have retired
P.K and Johnnie Lester receive Firefighter of the Year awards
at a Christmas Banquet
P.K. at an unknown event (above)