By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — For Keavy native Ronnie Bales, being part of the firefighter family was not just a duty. It was a lifestyle.
“He always tried to help, whether it was for the firefighting family or the community,” said Larry Vanhook, chief of the London Fire Department.
Bales was chief of the Keavy Volunteer Fire Department as well as president of the Laurel County Fire Alliance for more than 20 years.
“He’s been chief and president of the Fire Alliance since I joined in 1974,” Vanhook added.
Bales, 68, died Friday evening from lymphoma, a form of cancer that forms in the lymph nodes.
He was a self-employed dairy farmer in Keavy, where he worked and served his community. He was former president and current treasurer of the Locust Grove Cemetery committee.
“He will be greatly missed by the firefighting family and the community,” Vanhook added. “He was always there to help, whether it was training or helping other fire departments.”
Indeed, Bales and other volunteers with the Keavy unit were always on hand to assist, if only to direct traffic at accident scenes or assist law enforcement units who were doing an investigation of the accident. He was an avid supporter of all emergency responders and dedicated his life to helping others.
Vanhook added he and Bales went to a firefighting event just last month.
“To see him, you’d never know he was sick. A month later, here we are,” he added.
Bales’ contributions to the community were heralded with numerous tributes, including numerous flags adorning the roadway in front of London Funeral Home. The London Fire Department poised their aerial truck with the large American flag waving over the parking lot of the funeral home, and members of the Keavy Volunteer Fire Department stood guard at the casket while others lined the entrance as the family filed in on Monday night.
Vanhook said Bales would receive an honorary escort from the funeral home to Ky. 192 to Ky. 312.
“We will stop at the Keavy Fire Department for a few minutes for a final tribute, then go on to the (Locust Grove Cemetery),” Vanhook added. “Every fire department in the county will have a unit in the processional as well as West Knox, Corbin, and a unit from Nicholasville.”
Surviving Bales is his wife Gail Willis Bales; a daughter Cindy Bales and husband Paul of Manchester; a son Michael Bales of Keavy; his mother Beatrice Owens Bales; mother-in-law Joyce Willis; and two brothers Harold Bales and wife Carolyn and Richard Bales and wife Laura, all of London.