Firefighting was in David Crothers’ blood.
Crothers, whose firefighting career spanned close to 40 years, predominantly with the Owen Sound Fire Department and Inter Township Fire Department, died on Sunday at the age of 72.
Owen Sound Fire Chief Doug Barfoot said on Friday that to say firefighting was Mr. Crothers’ life is putting it very mildly.
“I can’t think of another individual that had as much dedication to the fire service as he did,” said Barfoot, who worked alongside Mr. Crothers for about 28 years. “He was the type of guy who carried his scanner with him all the time and he was at every call he could possibly make, and if he didn’t make the call he would be quite upset.”
Mr. Crothers’ dedication to firefighting was to be marked on Friday evening beginning at 6 p.m. at the Inter Township department for a service, followed by a reception at the Owen Sound Legion to share stories.
Barfoot said Mr. Crothers always seemed to be around his fellow firefighters.
In recent years, Barfoot has been taking a lot of the old artifacts from the firehall to Grey Roots, including a box of photos. In going through the photos with collections manager Sim Salata and trying to put names to those in the pictures, he has seen one person who is in many of them is Mr. Crothers, often wearing street clothes and work boots.
“When we were done after about an hour-and-a-half I finally said to Sim, ‘Do you see a bit of a pattern here with Dave?’” said Barfoot. “He was quite upset if he missed a call. Whether he was on duty or not he wanted to be there.”
Mr. Crothers started his firefighting career in Wingham, where his father served as fire chief.
Barfoot, who first met Mr. Crothers in about 1979 when Barfoot joined the Inter Township Department and Mr. Crothers worked for the city department, said his dedication to firefighting likely came from his father.
“Dave started in the fire service hanging around fire trucks when he was probably 10 or 12 years old,” Barfoot said.
Mr. Crothers was hired to the Owen Sound Fire Department in 1974 and worked there until he retired from the city department in 2001. He also held an electrical ticket and worked for Fluker Electric and Terry Godin, and Barfoot said Mr. Crothers actually did wiring in the current city fire station.
Upon retiring from the city department in 2001, Mr. Crothers joined the Inter Township department, rising to the ranks of deputy chief, until 2011 when he retired from there.
Andy Redmond, deputy chief at the Inter Township department, said Crothers was the same way with the Inter Township department as he was at the city department in that he would never miss a call.
“It didn’t matter if he was on duty or off, if he heard sirens and he knew there was an emergency on the go he would be there and was there,” said Redmond. “It was all about the public and wanting to help people. He was one of those guys who had a twinkle in his eye, loved the job and loved his career.”
Redmond and Barfoot both said retirement from firefighting was hard for Mr. Crothers, who also lost his wife Connie in 2012.
“It broke his heart leaving at the end, when he retired from here,” said Redmond.
In recent years, Mr. Crothers spent his winters in Tucson, Arizona, while he would summer at Spry Lake close to some of his family.
Barfoot said he has stayed in touch with Mr. Crothers and was one of about half a dozen of his former colleagues, friends and family who helped move him down to the U.S.
Redmond said he was fortunate enough to go and spend a week with Mr. Crothers in Tucson.
“He was a good guy. He was one of those guys that if you ever needed something, you called him and five minutes later he was standing on your doorstep and it didn’t matter what it was,” Redmond said. “He was from the old school and he was there to help. That is Dave in a nutshell.”
Stepson Blake Crothers, who took the Crothers name in 1985 after his mother Connie married Mr. Crothers, described him as a very kind and generous person.
He said through Mr. Crothers’ work, they would spend a lot of time with his fellow firefighters.
“We all knew each other, we had Christmases together, there would be family skates,” he said. “That family became an extended family in that sense in that is how we grew up.”
He said his stepfather was also a very handy person and often helped out with home projects when needed.
Blake Crothers said his stepdad battled throat cancer about five years ago and beat that, but he died Sunday at Chapman House residential hospice after a brief battle with stomach cancer.
He said his dad had a good life.
“I don’t think he had many regrets at all,” Blake Crothers said. “He did it his way.”
Mr. Crothers is survived by friend and companion Gracie Woodley of Grand Bend, daughter Kim Crothers (Steve) of Calgary and Blake of Winnipeg. He is also survived by four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He is predeceased by wife Connie, his parents David and Georgena of Wingham, his sister Joyce Gaunt, son David and niece Karin.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that people consider donating to Chapman House. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Breckenridge-Ashcroft Funeral Home.