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Retired officers look back

September 27, 2012
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

Last week, retired firemen Jim Dudley and Bob Rodkey stopped by Station One to visit the people that had become their second family. Rodkey, a lieutenant and Dudley, a captain, both retired from the Austintown Fire Department last month, but neither has plans to take it easy.

Rodkey recalled his fascination with the fire service, which began at an early age.

"Like all little kids, I always wanted to drive the big red truck," he said.

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Retired fire department officers Capt. Jim Dudley and Lt. Bob Rodkey visited Station One last week to keep in touch with their comrades. Both men had retired last month after decades of service to Austintown residents.

The fascination runs in the family. His older brother Ron served on the fire department as a volunteer before putting in 30 years on the Austintown Police Department.

In 1985, Rodkey joined the Austintown Fire Department while still working at General Motors Lordstown assembly plant. He recalled his first call out on a fire in progress.

"I'll always remember my first working fire," he said. "It was 3 p.m. when we responded to a house fire on Amberly Avenue. As soon as we came around the corner, the front picture window blew out of the house."

He continued fighting fires and after 10 years with the fire department, he was among the personnel that took a course through Trumbull County to become a state certified emergency medical technician. He continued to rise through the ranks, eventually landing the position of lieutenant at Station 3 on Raccoon Road. The position required him to assist the station captain and his good friend Jim Dudley.

Dudley, a 1967 graduate of Wilson High School, had moved to Austintown and for his 30th birthday, a friend gave him an application for the fire department. In 1979, he started as a volunteer firefighter who was called out from home when emergency calls came in. He said his first call out was for a dryer fire that ended up being a lawn mower fire in a driveway.

In the 1980s, Dudley moved up in rank to lieutenant and in 1991 took the commission of station captain of the Raccoon Road station. He accepted the position after putting in 41 years with ISO, doing fire rating inspections and dealing with building codes.

Rodkey and Dudley were the duo who handled all the paperwork, personnel, equipment and operations of their station. Rodkey said there is a lot involved to running a fire station and they were a perfect team for the task.

"I almost knew what Jim wanted before he asked," Rodkey said "We had worked together for 27 years and really knew each other well."

During their time at Station 3, they got to train dozens of new firefighters. One of those included Andy Frost III, the present fire chief for Austintown.

"I learned a lot from them early in my career," Frost said.

At the end of August, firefighter Keith Rosser was sworn in as the new station captain and John Racco as lieutenant. Rudkey and Dudley stepped down and are ready to enjoy retirement. They won't be sitting around the house though. Both have plans to stay active at home and in the community.

Rudkey plans to continue his involvement with sports. He serves as a track and field official for Mahoning County, is a score keeper for wrestling, and works as a spotter at the Fitch football games. He said he is a big Fitch football fan.

"When you are born in Austintown, you root for two teams," he said, "Fitch, and everyone who plays Boardman."

He will also be spending more time with his wife Judy and the couple's three daughters and four grandchildren. Rudkey is also a member of several local organizations including various local Masonic lodges and the Youngstown Area Track Officials Association.

Dudley will also continue to be very active. He is working on some home improvements and a garage addition. One of his favorite pastimes is hitting local car shows and cruises. He owns a 1968 Firebird convertible and a 1994 Corvette convertible.

Along with his wife Nancy, Dudley plans of spending more time with family. He has two daughters, one son, and one grandchild. He also serves as president of the board for Wedgewood Park Evangelical Congregational Church in Austintown and has volunteered with the Mission of Love.

"Between church, home, and my cars, I'll keep going," he said. "I will miss it though. I still get up in the morning and look for my pager and keys."



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