By Richard Karns

Special to the Herald Review

LeRoy Tubbs married Cora Clark in 1892 and they had four children, Harried Kitty, Frank and Roy W. It is the Roy W. Tubbs I am going to write about.

Roy married Mildred J. Holmquist (my mother's sister) and had two children, Jerry and Roy Jr. Roy W. Tubbs served in the U.S. Nation Guard in the 1920s and '30s, and was the chief of the Reed City's volunteer fire department.

Wanting to pay tribute to my Uncle Roy hasn't been as easy as I thought. There isn't a lot of information from when he was born in 1911 to when he died in 1958. The information for this article comes from his son, Roy Jr., who was 16 at the time of his father's death, and from Gerald "Skip" Kientiz, Bob Dahlquist and Dave Jensen, who were on the fire department when Uncle Roy was fire chief.

Roy Jr. told me of a time when he dad was teaching him how to drive, that his dad was patient, understanding, and when lessons didn't go as well as they should, he would continue the lessons so Roy Jr. would improve and build his confidence. According to those I talked to, this was the same attitude he showed when dealing with the men on the fire department. Roy mentioned, too, that when Jerry and Lorraine Grein were first married, Uncle Roy would help them to fix up their house when needed.

I don't have a lot of memories of Uncle Roy, as I was 14 when he died. The memories I do have are good ones. In every family there are those individuals who stand out for one reason or another. Uncle Roy (we affectionately called Uncle Tubby) was one of those individuals for me. I remember him as being kind, and one of my fondest memories with him is at Christmas. He and Aunt Millie would bring us a box of fruit — oranges, apples, pears, grapes and nuts of all kinds. We were a large family, and a treat like that wasn't an everyday occurrence. That was decades ago and of all of my Christmas memories, that is the one I remember the most.

I had asked Lonnie Graham how I would go about finding facts about the fire and how my uncle died in 1958. Lonnie looked for some information and found out some of the official records have been lost, and 1958 was one of them. So the facts in this article about the May 1958 brush fire is coming from memories of the firefighters that were there, instead of documented facts.

It was May of 1958 when the brush fire broke out north of Reed City, and the Reed City Fire Department was sent to put it out. It was during this fire that Uncle Roy died of a heart attack. Roy Jr. remembers attending the ceremony when his dad's name was placed on the statue at the Michigan Fireman's Memorial in Roscommon. Lonnie told me the names of deceased firemen are listed at the memorial, but on the names of those who died in the line of duty are on the statue.

Uncle Roy had been working, driving a truck for Home Oil Co. at the time. Jerry had graduated from high school, had been in the service during the Korean War, and was attending Ferris State University. Roy was in high school and he told me, "I thought I would need to quit school."

As many of us can imagine, life for Aunt Millie, Jerry and Roy had changed forever. Aunt Millie up to this point had been a stay-at-home mom, and realizing she needed a skill that would allow her to support her family and herself, she started attending Ferris, receiving her associate's degree in bookkeeping in 1960. She worked for Ted's Dairy and Home Oil Co., both in Reed City, as their bookkeeper.

The reality is, Uncle Roy's death changed the Reed City Fire Department too, as they had lost their leader in a very real and tragic way.

Firemen are heroes in my book. They don't wear capes or travel as fast as a speeding bullet, or leap tall buildings in a single bound. These heroes are very human and are willing to risk their lives by putting on their fire gear, run into burning buildings and climb up a ladder as far as necessary to save people's lives and work in all kinds of weather to save someone's property.

Maybe these words aren't the most eloquent, but I hope my sincere gratitude and appreciation for their service comes through.