“Buz, you’re a hero. You gave it all that day, did not pause or hesitate, and the lives were saved.”
These words were sung by Kenneth Farnsworth on June 22 at the rededicaton of the Allan “Buz” Anderson Jr. memorial on Pitts Road in Wellington Township.
Anderson, a member of Wellington’s fire and dive rescue teams, died June 22, 2006, while saving a teenage couple trapped in flash flood waters. They had tried to drive through deep water in their car.
“No one can believe it’s already been 10 years,” said Farnsworth, former public safety scuba diver, rescue diver, and swift water swimmer with the Lorain County dive team and the Wellington fire department. “The monument is here and we all think about Buz when we drive by it, but we wanted to make sure that everyone does that. So I talked to Buz’s parents and the thought came up to do the rededication, not just to recognize Buz’s heroics but to also remember why it was necessary.”
Stay away from flooding to protect both yourself and others, he said: “Turn around, stop, do whatever. Just don’t drive across flooded roadways and put your lives and the lives of rescue workers at risk.”
Allan Anderson Sr. and his wife Cathy spoke of the feelings of shock and sorrow that have gone along with losing their son, but also of the solace brought on by knowing he gave his life to save two others.
“One thing that I know for sure is that my son is in heaven,” said Cathy Anderson. “With my son being a diver, one of the things he often said was that when it was his time to go he hoped that it would be in the water. Through the years we’ve always had people coming forward and sharing their memories of our son with us. They come from all over.”
She shared the story of becoming friends with Chet Aden, one of the teenagers her son saved, through Facebook. What started as one- and two-sentence exchanges has grown into a friendship between them and members of Aden’s family that still live in the area. Aden, now 27, is married with a family of his own, she said.
Anderson Sr. said he has sometimes struggled with grief but has found ways to overcome it.
“Really I don’t have any sadness,” he said. “I don’t have sadness because my son did what he wanted to do. That’s the name of the game. I regret times where I’ve laid in bed and the devil put thoughts in my head of Buz still being here if I hadn’t let him join the fire department. I lived with that for a few weeks before erasing it from my mind. I wasn’t going to let him win.”
Wellington fire chief Mike Weatherbee told those on hand about the legislative changes that Anderson’s death brought on across Ohio.
He twice traveled to Columbus to give testimony for Ohio Senate Bill 106, which prohibits driving on a public street or highway covered by a rise in water level if it’s been clearly marked by a sign stating that the road is closed. It imposes fines of up to $2,000 that go directly back to the agencies that provided any rescue services made necessary by the violation.
“You lose one and it takes its toll on everyone,” said Weatherbee. “Through the loss of Buz we learned a lot. The support of the Anderson family through the whole ordeal meant so much. We tried to be strong for them but they were strong and supportive right back. I think that was the key factor in all of us making it through to the other side.”
Wellington police Lt. Jeff Shelton served with Anderson as a firefighter and paramedic and paid his respects to someone he called a close friend.
“I was on duty at the police station that morning,” he said. “I still remain friends with his family to this day. It’s been 10 years and we can’t let the memory of what happened go by the wayside. I just miss seeing and talking to Buz. This brings back many bad memories but we all just have to move on.”
Anderson’s widow, Jule Farley, agreed that community support has been overwhelming.
“Knowing that we lost Buz because of such a heroic act proves at least a small bit of relief,” she said. “This community has done nothing but band together and stick behind our family. Even those that didn’t know us came forward.”
She and Anderson’s son, Jacob Anderson, took his family to the memorial and expressed his desire to pass his father’s values on to them.
“I miss my father being here every day,” he said. “He always had something to share, some way to make things better. I wish my kids could meet him and see the example that he set. We all just miss his general presence.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise The Anderson family gathered June 22 on Pitts Road to rededicate a memorial to Allan “Buz” Anderson Jr., who died in 2006 while saving a teenage couple during a flash flood.