Talon News - Good Local News

MEMORIAL TO FALLEN

Lt. Shadd Rohwer Memorial

 

August 31, 2018

Shadd Rohwer memorial, tom anderson at memorial.

by TALON Staff

There were already hints of fall when Talon staff met with Farmington Fire Department (FFD) Captain Tom Anderson at the memorial honoring fellow firefighter and friend, Lieutenant Jacob Shadd Rohwer. Simply known as Shadd, he dedicated his life to helping his fellow man and promoting safety through the use of protective equipment. Rohwer's life was cut short after battling job-related cancer, he died at age 44.

The bronze statue is mounted atop a brick pillar and is appropriately located at the Rocky Reach Landing along the Berg trail system in Farmington. A plaque that shares a bit of Rohwer's story and his mission to promote safety is affixed to the pillar. There are two benches facing the memorial with the Animas river as a backdrop. Anderson explains, this was "A special spot for Shadd", and, "The location is key to getting Shadd's message out". It was where he taught rescue classes in the rapids area of the river. Anderson continues, "He taught hundreds and hundreds of people. All of the guys on the Farmington Fire Department, he has taught every single one of us". People came from all over the country for the training and the department will continue Rohwer's legacy by preparing other firemen to provide the water rescue training at that location.

Anderson shared just how important safety was to Rohwer, "If you were out on the lake on a paddle board and didn't have a life jacket on he would paddle over and tell you that you needed a life jacket, and then explain in detail why you needed that life jacket!" Anderson smiled relaying how the firefighters often help each other during home projects and typically work in shorts and flip flops, Rohwer would show up in full coveralls, safety glasses and a respirator, "That was just Shadd".

Rohwer had a lot of passions in life. In high school he was a very accomplished cross-country runner, and the experience impacted him, permanently. It was also where he gained the nickname, "Shaddow", in part due to his name. But, Anderson clarified, it was because he was so fast that was all people saw, his shadow. That coach instilled in Rohwer, and the other student athletes, "Run hard, run the distance, don't ever give up." Rohwer carried that attitude with him throughout his life. And, his relationship with the coach went beyond high school. Rohwer's coach attended the unveiling ceremony of the memorial that took place May 23rd and continued to maintain contact with Rohwer's parents after his death.

An outdoor enthusiast, Rohwer's recreation interests included rafting, swimming and mountain biking. But, Anderson points out that not many people would join him, "Because most could not keep up with him!" Rohwer never married but had a long-term relationship with a woman who had children. Anderson expressed that, "Shadd loved those children like his own", and, cared about all the children of his friends and neighbors. He was very protective of them. Additionally, he enjoyed local events such as the Octoberfest and Celtic Fest, and going dancing. Anderson reminisced, "Everyone knew Shadd. He was one of the most personable people I've known, everybody loved him".

Anderson describes Rohwer's battle with cancer, "His death wasn't caused by a single act or a single decision. But his entire life was spent in service to people and that is what ultimately caused his death. He ultimately gave his life to the citizens of this town, which is more than I think any of us could ask for someone to do". Rohwer fought hard for two years, Anderson adds, "Probably longer and harder than most anybody else I know probably would have". He was in Phoenix for treatment when he died. Once Rohwer passed the Phoenix and Farmington Fire Department performed the tradition of "standing watch" over his body until he was laid to rest. Anderson explains, "It's just one of those things we do to (show) honor, very similar to what the military does".

In spite of the cancer and its progression Anderson describes Rohwer as being consistently optimistic. When asked how he was doing, his answers were always positive, "I'm doing great!" Anderson believes Rohwer did not want anyone to worry about him, but knew that once the cancer metastasized that it was lethal. In spite of that he always hoped to get back on that fire truck, back on duty.

Shadd Rohwer Memorial, Unveiling.

Anderson hopes that the community will take time to visit the memorial and take time reflect on Rohwer's life and the message he spent his life sharing. Anderson believes, "His role on this earth was to open people's eyes". That message is perhaps more important than ever. Anderson reports that cancer is becoming the number one killer of firemen. While everyone recognizes the inherent dangers that firefighters face, today's materials are more toxic and burn hotter and faster. Research is helping learn about the potential dangers but it is difficult to keep up with the findings due to economic restraints. Efforts are being made to raise funds to supplement budgets and purchase the necessary items to increase safety, if anyone is interested in contributing Anderson recommends contacting Farmington Professional Firefighters Association via their Facebook page.

The bronze sculpture was created by Paul Olesniewicz of 911 Sculptures, a retired firefighter who now resides in Tucson, Arizona. He exclusively constructs sculptures that honor and memorialize police, firefighter, EMT, first responders and military service personnel.

 

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