Stony Lohr

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Stony, I remember writing a piece about you when you became chief. I asked you if you had a brief bio because I knew there would be a lot of military references in it, and I don’t speak militarese. I can’t find it now, nor the story I wrote, but I well remember, it was several tightly typed pages long.

This time the bio is just a page and a half. The half is intended to offer a bit of humor, I believe. Oh, never mind. I see you wrote it.

I’ve never seen so many capital letters in one page of typing in my life. As our journalistic friend John Munford well knows, editors spend their days trying to get novices to cut out adjectives and unnecessary caps. There are more upper case letters in this than there are lower case. And check out these abbreviations:

What a shame. There goes another very capable writer, ruined by the military.

A lot of people didn’t know Stony at all during his volunteer years, beginning in March 1992. That’s because he stood in the shadows a lot and didn’t have much to say. In 1993 he joined the paid staff and apparently still didn’t have much to say. But he stayed out of trouble and kept the department from falling apart while Chief Reed was sick. Stony served as interim chief from January 2000 to January 2001 when he became chief.

Stony accepted gleefully when the position was offered to him because he thought there might be some other obscure acronyms he hadn’t noticed before. Whatever he may have filed over the past seven years, I have it from reliable sources, he’ll never find it now.

When he started cleaning out his office, they had to bring in a backhoe and one of those self-storage containers that now sits in the driveway of his home. If he couldn’t let go of things in the office in the past years, what makes him think he’ll be any different when he starts dumpster diving now? Dee, get some big pots and plant some kudzu on three sides of the thing. The neighbors will thank you.

Stony Lohr (and that is his real first name) was born in 1947 in Clarksburg, W. Va., the birthplace of Stonewall Jackson. Thus inspired, this man was bound to be a soldier. After he graduated from high school in Rochester, N.Y. in 1965, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1967, graduated in 1971 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1971.

The biography continues: “He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in July 1992. His Awards and Decorations include the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star, two Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, Vietnam Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, and a Patriotic Civilian Service Award.”

I’d like to suggest that Maxine take Chief Lohr’s biography (only a fraction of which you have read here), frame it and hang it next to the door to his office. If you find a new chief with half his credentials, you’ll have the best educated fire chief – anywhere. Be it in police work, fire protection, rescue, engineering, a wealth of degrees, accreditation management – for a total of 21 certifications – the range is stunning. I admit I don’t know what half of these mean, but this list of awards should move lesser people to reach for the stars.

Would you like to know how Stony met Dee and persuaded her to marry him? Nothing to it. While attending different schools, he worked for a service station. She ran a donut shop across the street. He went to West Point, and they were married the morning after graduation.

Stony and Dee have three sons, Bill, Keith, and Stony Jr. All are married and live in Iowa, Oregon and Peachtree City. They have produced five grandchildren, number six to coming soon. Their grandpa can hardly wait to get down on the floor with them. (Stony, down on the floor playing horsey?)

The Chief is especially proud of the number and quality of the members of Peachtree City Fire/Rescue Department. He has been a volunteer with fire services since 1974, starting in Washington State, moving south to Alabama and north to Alaska.

A friend persuaded the Lohrs to check out Peachtree City as an ideal town in which to retire. But for a man so dedicated to public service, retirement came hard.

He checked out the fire department. “I was impressed by both former members and current members,” he said. “Its men and women have been exemplary public servants, providing high degrees of technical competence and personal compassion and help to people in the community.

“Like most people,” he said, “I like being a part of an organization of excellence.”

The department has never enjoyed the growth it has in recent years, under Lohr’s direction. In particular, he said, “Women members have increased from the few to quite a few. Where there used to be only Louise and Sallie, there are now Maxine and Cheryl on the support staff, and Dr. Vicky and Captain Peki, and Stephanie and Ellen and Marcia and Jodi and Natalie and Jennifer and Hayley and Karen and Robin and Preci and Elda and Candi and Betty on the front line providing fire and emergency medical services.

“I sometimes feel like the leader of ‘Charlie's Angels,’” Stony muses, “but there are way more than three of them. They have broken the ice in the department, and proven that they can provide emergency services as well as the guys and often better. It should be noted that a distinguished older member has a fire station named after her.”

You just had to say that, didn’t you, Stony?

I am not one of Stony’s goons, never was – thank goodness. But as a life member of the fire department, I feel welcome whenever I’m with them, and Stony has a lot to do with that.

Thanks for everything, Big Guy. Take it easy, and may your second retirement be as good as the first. Make this the best part of your life.

This column is a speech given at the dinner honoring retiring Chief Stony Lohr.

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