KEYSER - Keyser resident Bob Dorsey has spent the majority of his life jumping up from family dinners at a moment's notice, throwing on turnout gear and racing through town behind the wheel of a firetruck.
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Keyser resident Bob Dorsey has spent the majority of his life jumping up from family dinners at a moment’s notice, throwing on turnout gear and racing through town behind the wheel of a firetruck.
He joined the Keyser Volunteer Fire Department when he was a mere 21 years old, and continued to answer the call as a firefighter for the next 70 years.
Even in his 80s, the dedicated volunteer could be seen rolling out fire hoses, directing traffic, and doing whatever needed done to help save someone’s home or business.
In 2011, at the age of 91, Dorsey decided to hang up his helmet - retiring as what many believe to be the longest-active firefighter in West Virginia.
Tuesday, the Keyser VFD decided to pay tribute to the now 98-year-old Dorsey with an honorary ride through town.
Little did chief Brett Biddle know, however, just how big that plan would grow.
“I believe we had right around 70 units there,” Biddle told the News Tribune, noting that he has no idea how some of the fire companies even heard about the ride.
They showed up in full force, however, with representatives of every fire company in Mineral County, along with several from nearby Allegany County.
As Tammy Ann Dorsey-Dale wrote in her Facebook post:
“They came from Keyser, New Creek, Burlington, and McCoole; Cresaptown, Potomac Park, Elk Garden, Wiley Ford and Short Gap; Fountain, Ridgeley, Bittinger, Barton, Fort Ashby, Tri-Towns and beyond.”
The tribute began as the units gathered at Keyser’s Fire Station No. 1 on West Piedmont Street, and when their parking lot filled to capacity, they parked along the sides of Piedmont, St. Cloud, Gilmore and James streets.
A marching unit of Keyser VFD members, led by Chief Biddle, walked in formation up Gilmore Street to Dorsey’s home, where he waited with family members.
The trucks then pulled out one-by-one and lined both sides of St. Cloud Street, with the firefighters - some in turnout gear and some in dress uniforms - stood by as Biddle drove Dorsey past in one of the Keyser VFD units.
Although he wasn’t behind the wheel, Dorsey nevertheless looked right at home as he waived to his fellow firefighters - many of them looking to be around the age he was when he started.
The fire, EMS and law enforcement vehicles then fell in line, and escorted Dorsey south on Mineral Street, then down to Main Street, where they came back up through town with their lights flashing.
“They were all there to respect and honor one man - “Big” Bob Dorsey,” Dorsey-Dale wrote.
“He’s always stood taller than most men, but not because he’s 6’4”. He’s a real-live hero to all of us who know and love him.”