Firefighter Dave Crawford isn’t much for words, so even though he was again the recipient of the Thomas R. Ropchok Firefighter of the Year award, he stayed true to his nature.
“I’m honored that my coworkers chose me by ballot three times,” he said. “That’s it.”
Crawford has been a member of the Wellington fire department since June 1988. This is his third time winning the award and to date he is the only multiple winner.
In addition to his firefighting duties, Crawford is a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War and an EMS first responder. He is a retired, self-employed truck driver.
It’s estimated he has saved the fire district thousands of dollars by maintaining and managing department vehicle maintenance.
“He has been our main driving instructor for the guys,” said assisant fire chief Bill Brown. “You don’t drive the fire trucks until you have enough time on the department, you drove with Dave, and he OKs you to drive the trucks.”
“He’s very unassuming,” Brown said. “His daughter said it best in a Facebook post: ‘He comes across as a grumpy old man, but inside he is a big teddy bear that is willing to do anything for anybody.’”
When he’s not at the fire department — and he usually is there because ‘his hobby is the fire department,’ Brown said — Crawford and his wife, Pam, are avid campers and Harley-Davidson riders.
The WFD’s award-winner is chosen each year by members of the Wellington Firefighter’s Association in recognition of leadership during training and on the fire ground; sacrifices of time away from family; devotion and commitment to the fire district; and for setting a positive example for others to follow.
The award is named for Capt. Ropchok, who passed away following a battle with cancer. He was active in the training program and was usually the first to take a new firefighter under his wing to help them adapt and feel comfortable. Ropchok was known for his sense of humor.
This year’s award was chosen anonymously by ballot, ranking factors such as training hours, incidents made, public relations hours,and shift hours worked.
Others in the running for the award were firefighters Ken Knapp, Scott Regal, Jason Dumke, Bryan Hamer, Mike Barlow, Dave Roser, and Melissa Fuquay.
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.
Photo by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise
Dave Crawford, right, receives the Wellington Thomas R. Ropchok Firefighter of the Year award from assistant fire chief Bill Brown. Fire chief Mike Wetherbee proudly looks on.