by: Amy Philips Haller
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. -Henry David Thoreau
Our hearts hung heavy on April 29th as the news of our Beloved Fire Chief Ron Cramer broke out. Though he fought a gallant battle against an evil disease, he drew his last breath on that date.
...And the Department of Bower Hill lost its breath, as we began to mourn this noble man. There are many men who do great deeds one time and are remembered for it; but Chief Ron Cramer did many deeds over a lifetime that made him great.
In 1976 he reluctantly joined Bower Hill VFD due to endless nudging from his neighbor, Eugene Levi. But if you knew Ron, you knew his cantankerous, begrudging ways were simply nothing more then a front. Within 2 years, this same man who said he 'didn't want to join a fire department' was already an officer.
Sometimes known as Chief, Cramer or Chumley, this once long haired, Harley riding man had the reputation for commitment; consistency; reliability; and most of all- having a big heart.
"He would always do what was best for this department," Ceil Kitchen sadly points out. "More importantly, he was my friend. We started out together: We took Essentials at the same time."
George Fichter, another alumni and friend from that particular class, commented, "I remember when we were taking Essentials we would enter the smokehouse and run through a half hour bottle in fifteen minutes. We would laugh at each other and say 'Is that you or me?' as the alarm was sounding off."
"He is the only person I knew who would go in with an hour bottle, while you would enter a burning building with a half hour tank and you both would have to come out for air at the same time," laughed Ceil Kitchen. It seemed that anyone you asked would say the same thing.
"When he wasn't at work he was at the station," remembers Bob Berdnik. "You could always count on him."
"I could trust Ron to get the job done and to do it right. You never had to ask him twice." said John Levi with conviction. "That man was like a brother to me."
We remember him particularly when be would be working night turn and would be up for some time before getting any sleep be cause be was answering calls," reminisced Reverend John Yohe.
"Not to mention, every engine that exists in this department, he had some part in creating. He sat on every apparatus committee and helped complete the specs for each of them," elaborated Levi.
"My favorite story was when we were on a call and it was a very cold day. I had taken my coat off. He saw me and yelled 'Put your coat on you bonehead!' The next thing you know we hear dispatch say, '255 Open Mic.' I thought we were all going to burst, it was so funny," remembered Amy Haller.
"He always made me laugh. He had a great sense of humor," stated Jason Dolence. "And when he talked about his daughters, well he really lit up."
His love for his children was most admirable. His genuine concern for every child who walked through the doors of Bower Hill was obvious.
"He would light up when he would see a child. He would stoop right down to their level and start showing them things. He always loved the kids," reflected Dave Berkman.
"He was so good to my son," said Joe Seaman.
"He was so kind and loving to my daughter," stated Amy Haller.
"Ron would come across as the tough guy, but down deep inside be was nothing but a big teddy bear," chuckled Ed Zombeck
That is what is so unique about Chief Ron Cramer. Tough guy seemingly, big teddy bear definitely. But maybe the secret to Ron was he epitomized the heart of most firefighters: A strong man able to courageously fight fires, but equipped with a heart that motivated him to risk his own life for others.
Whatever his motivation, his intent was always good. April 29th was a sad day in Bower Hill History. We lost much more then a Chief, we lost a man who exemplifies decency, goodness and kindness.
"If Prometheus was worthy of the wrath of heaven for kindling the first fire upon earth, how ought all the gods to honor the men who make it their professional business to put it out?"
- John Godfrey Saxe, circa 1850.
Bower Hill extends its sympathy to the family of Ron Cramer. Although we may feel our loss is great, we know that theirs is greater.