John Wood was a dedicated husband, a father of four, and humble, dependable, public servant. A truck driver by trade, John had a special connection with the apparatus. Many of my memories include images of him working with the trucks. At times he would explain the workings of the pump controls as if he assumed I understood any of it. One summer, “The Judge”, a converted military 6-by/pumper lived at our house. My mother, Marian, was one of the first EMTs on the department and I have a photo of her backing Dad up on a hose-line wearing her curlers – so it must have been a Saturday night! There were countless Saturdays at the fire station where I spent more time climbing on fire apparatus than any playground in town.
On February 20, 1981, Dad responded, by himself, to a raging grass fire that threatened the homes of our friends and neighbors. It had been a wet summer and a dry winter so the grass was tall and dry with a strong north wind pushing the flames. Reports indicate that he placed himself in a flanking position in an effort to divert the fire-front and protect a structure. Upon arrival, additional response units found Dad on the ground in respiratory distress that eventually lead to cardio-respiratory arrest. CPR was initiated and he was transported by air ambulance but was pronounced dead upon arrival. Following his death, the autopsy revealed that he had ruptured his left ventricle – his body couldn’t support what his will demanded.
All three of John’s son followed in his footsteps. His oldest son, John Jr, a teacher by trade, became one of Parker’s first career fire fighters, promoted to Lieutenant, and authored a first-responder program that was implemented by the public school district and was recognized by the Governor of Colorado. His second son, David, worked in the aerospace industry but served as a volunteer in the foothills of Colorado. I’m in North Texas with 33 years in the career service and no interest in even contemplating retirement.
John Milton Wood was, and is, my hero and my inspiration. A humble man with no high school diploma, Dad’s name is inscribed on the the Fallen Firefighter Memorial in both Colorado and at the Nation Fire Academy in Emmitsburg Maryland! Too often we proclaim a “hero” based on one dramatic act, but the character of a true hero is one who shows up over and over again, unselfishly giving of their limited time and resources, doing whatever they can to help others in their time of need. We’ll see you in Heaven Dad, and boy, do we have a lot to talk about!