Milam County Historical Commission - Milam County, TX
Statue of Ben Milam at Milam County, TX Courthouse
Old Junior High School Building, Rockdale, TX
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Milam County, Texas
                             ‘Monumental’ day ahead Saturday
                             By Mike Brown - Reporter Editor
                              Rockdale Reporter - 2016-08-04

For 144 years they’ve kept Rockdale safe. Two of them gave their lives in those efforts.

They are the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department and at 10 a.m. Saturday a memorial
honoring all of them will be dedicated at the fire station, corner of Wilcox and Bell.

All of them, yes, but the memorial’s northern slab contains only two names and it’s the
RVFD’s goal to keep it that way. It’s to commemorate deceased firefighters.

Wilbur Williams and J. W. Hooper are the department’s only two members who have lost
their lives while on duty, dying Sept. 3, 1935.

The center slab commemorates the service of all RVFD volunteers throughout the years.

Inscribed on the northern slab is an inspirational poem.

Saturday’s speaker will be longtime firefighter Mike Korenek.

REMEMBERING — Fire Chief Ward Roddam said about two years ago he came up with an idea for
a permanent memorial at the station, one that would honor every Rockdale firefighter in
history with special emphasis on Hooper and Williams.

“As we move through time, we’ve often forgotten those who have come before us and the
sacrifices they’ve made,” he said. “I didn’t want that to happen to the RVFD.”

Roddam said he approached Rockdale Memorial Company and found the Luckey family—Paul,
Carol and Linda—highly supportive and the effort got into high gear.

“They donated the monument stones, the labor for forming and finishing the concrete and
all the installation,” he said.

The Luckeys also helped secure other donors for the project.

HONOR ROLL — Roddam listed donors who helped make the memorial a reality as follows:
Rockdale Memorial, Rockdale Building Materials Center, Miguel Hernandez, Roger Whitmore,
Wallace and Cheryl Jones, Jeff and Kelly Pickel, Hill Country Electric Supply, Cheryln
Ellis, Earl and Dixie Whitmore, Jason and Carol Worley.

FAMILY — Roddam said the memorial can have differing interpretations, depending on who is
viewing it.

“Since taking the position of fire chief, one of my main goals has been to ensure the
entire family is a part of our department,” he said.

“Our department has second, and even some third, generation firefighters in it. I believe
this memorial stands not only for the firefighters that have volunteered their time, but
for their entire families.”

Roddam said Saturday’s memorial service will include the history of the department, the
story of Hooper and Williams and general information regarding the department.

DEDICATION — There are hundreds of stories which hint at the dedication of Rockdale’s
volunteer firefighters over the past century and a half.

But there’s one ironic story that probably exemplifies their “you get right back up on
the bronc that throws you” spirit the most.

In 1935, Hooper and Williams died before dawn on a Tuesday morning. Both funerals were
held the next afternoon.

Hooper’s was held at First Baptist Church and his body was then taken to Taylor for
Masonic services and burial.

Rockdale VFD’s newest fire truck led the procession, and almost the entire department
went along for that sad trip.

As they came back into Rockdale, late that afternoon, they rolled up on.... Yes, a house
fire, the C. C. Gibson home near the football field.

And the RVFD, in their dress clothes, all of them heartsick, most of them physically and
emotionally worn out from the events of the past day and half, stopped.

And put out the fire.

It’s what they do.

It’s what they’ve done for 144 years.


Somehow it looks even more impressive at night.
Memorial at fire station will be dedicated in Saturday ceremony
Photo by Mike Brown - Rockdale Reporter
All Credit for this article
goes to Mike Brown
and the
Rockdale Reporter