Wheaton mourns loss of longtime fire chief
Lombard served as chief for 51 years
Surrounded by his family, Wheaton Fire Protection District Chief Bob Lombard, 80, died on Friday peacefully at his home, and an outpouring of love for the Lombard family is being expressed countywide.
"It is with great sadness we announce the passing of Chief Bob Lombard," the district's Facebook page said on Friday. "He was more proud of this department than words can describe. Chief Bob Lombard proudly served the citizens of the Wheaton Fire Protection District for 62 years (51 years as Fire Chief), watching it grow daily to what it is today. Chief Bob Lombard loved the citizens of this district, and will truly be missed. Please keep the WFPD, and the family in your thoughts."
Lindy Lombard, Bob Lombard's son who serves as assistant fire chief and has been with the department since the age of 16 as a junior firefighter, said his farther was a genuine, humble man who loved Wheaton and protecting its residents.
"He's my hero," Lombard said. "We were talking with friends and the other firemen about how he didn't really have any hobbies. He would fish a bit, but usually he'd just say, 'I'm going down to the fire station.' He also didn't want us to do any celebration for his 50th anniversary as chief. He was never after the glory and always very humble."
The chief's affinity for public service passed on to his children and grandchildren. Lindy Lombard has served at the district 41 years, grandson Taylor Lombard is a Barry County Sheriff's Office deputy, and grandson Stuart Lombard is a 911 dispatcher at the Barry County E911 Center.
"[Bob Lombard] blazed the trail for us, and we follow it and know better than to go off of it," Lindy Lombard said. "I've never seen someone as dedicated to the community as him. I've been on 41 years, and when I look back at the time he spent serving, it's amazing."
Lombard said he remembers when he was 10, his father would leave work at the Shelter Insurance Company to take calls.
"We would be at the Shelter Insurance office and the whistle on Main Street would go off," Lombard said. "He'd tell me to stay at the office until he came back from fighting the fire."
Lombard said as a father, Bob Lombard was second to none.
"As a father, he was the same way as a fireman," Lombard said. "He never gave up and strived to do all he could to help the community and neighbors who needed help. That's one thing he drove into me, that you should drop whatever you're doing to help others."
Others in the fire and police communities took to social media to express their condolences to the Wheaton district. Kenen Martinez, Exeter police chief, expressed sympathy on behalf of the Exeter Police Department.
"Chief Lombard was a pillar of the emergency services community in Barry County and in the fire service in Southwest Missouri," he said in a Facebook post. "Indeed Chief Lombard's name was virtually synonymous with Wheaton Fire. Owing to Chief Lombard's selfless service to his community, all Exeter PD officers will wear mourning bands from now until the day of Chief Lombard's funeral, and we invite all public safety agencies in McDonald, Newton and Barry County."
The Purdy Fire Protection District also posted on its page.
"The Purdy Fire Protection District would like to offer our thoughts, prayers, and condolences to the family and friends of Chief Bob Lombard, as well as to the Wheaton Fire Protection District family," the post said. "Chief Lombard was the epitome of a public servant, serving the Wheaton community for over 60 years with the Wheaton Fire Department. Many of us have worked side by side with Chief Lombard and two more generations of his family. His passing will be felt by many emergency services personnel throughout Barry County and beyond. God Speed, Chief."
Rusty Rickard, chief at the Central Crossing Fire Protection District in Shell Knob, said the news of Lombard's passing found him reflecting on something Lombard had said.
"I stumbled across a quote that Bob had made a while back that I felt was worthy of sharing," he said in a post. "In discussion about teaching and showing what it means to live selflessly, Bob says, 'Helping people, that's the main thing, and I've done it all my life so I don't think anything about it.'
"As simple as it sounds, it is something many of us should think about and remember Bob by. Serving and helping people is why most of us signed up, let's not forget that. Rest in peace, chief."
Arrangements have been scheduled, with visitation today from 5-8 p.m. at the McQueen Funeral Home in Wheaton. The memorial service will be Tuesday at 2 p.m. a the Wheaton Fire Protection District's new fire station on the corner of Highway W and Gardner Avenue in Wheaton. Burial will follow at the Muncie Chapel Cemetery on highway 86, two miles north of Wheaton.
All Fire Departments, EMS Districts, and Law Enforcement agencies wishing to participate in the memorial service should contact Captain Taylor Lombard at 417-846-3300.