In Memory Of "T.R.", Thomas Russo
From the Firefighters' Memorial in Colorado Springs, CO
What can you say about a man who touched so many lives? Only by knowing him could you fully appreciate the man and his contributions during his time on this earth. I first met TR in 1982 as a green college kid trying to get some EMS experience at a local fire department. He had already served his town as a volunteer and call firefighter for more than 25 years, rising to the rank of Captain in the call force.
He was rough around the edges, had an earthy sense of humor ('Ralph Kramden'?), a real bark and growl when he spoke, never afraid to say what he thought, but there was a silent layer of compassion beneath it all. He never failed to entertain us with stories, jokes and other antics around the station. TR was a driver for a local company that transported the U.S. Mail, until August of 1989 when he was appointed to the career force at the end of the call system days. Serving as assistant mechanic, he drew upon his years of experience as a trucker and ardent lover of all things automotive. Many will remember how he cared for his own personal vehicles, constantly detailing them, using a floor mat on top of floor mat, so that the car was in showroom condition when traded in. That same passion and concern carried over to the fire apparatus. Once, he was teaching a new driver how to handle Engine 1 and its 5-speed manual transmission. After a session of stalling, grinding gears and missed shifts, the truck was backed safely into its bay and shut down. TR turned to the driver and said, "You know, some people got it and some people ain't; and you ain't got it. I ain't never riding with you in this truck again!" He hopped down from the cab, slammed the door and stalked away.
Early on, people depended on TR. The old station 1 on Smith Street had a single wide garage door for Engine 1 and Ladder 1, and required some skill both in leaving and backing in the station. The mirrors of the trucks had to be folded in to clear the door frame. Quite often during the day a driver would answer a call with the ladder and hesitate to try to back it in the station upon returning. The ladder would instead be parked curbside for the day and TR would come home and back it into the station himself that night.
We all shared TR's grief when his wife succumbed to liver disease after a long, courageous fight years ago. We congratulated him when he made career firefighter, an honor also bestowed upon his son Mike. And we mourn his passing and know that the world was made a little brighter for having him with us. To TR - as Wheels often said, "the coolest dude I know over 50!"
Created: 04 January 2002
Last modified on: 22 September 2010