GREEN: Robert “Bob” Calderone knew as a youngster he would someday be a member of the safety forces. After all, the name Calderone was synonymous with firefighting in the rural farming community in the 1960s and ’70s.
The little boy spent weekends at the fire hall where his father, Mickele “Mike” Calderone, would keep the firetrucks in top shape while also doing the same for vehicles at Goodyear Tire’s research division.
“I always remember that I learned a lot,” Calderone said.
Bob Calderone was appointed fire chief in 1996, taking over the job from his father, who retired the year before.
Calderone, 59, announced this week he will retire March 31 with 40 years of service, as is required after being enrolled for eight years in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) offered by the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund.
But Bob Calderone said he has no plans to sail off into the sunset following his retirement.
“I’ll keep working. I’ll do something in public safety,” he said.
Mike Calderone was the community’s first full-time fire chief in 1980. His son was hired as one of the first full-time firefighters in 1981, along with a group that included his younger brother David, who went on to be Coventry Township fire chief, and Ward 2 Councilman Dave France.
While Mike Calderone is credited with building the first full-time fire department in Green, Bob Calderone has helped the department grow from 24 firefighters who served 17,600 residents in 1980 to 40 firefighters who ran 3,091 calls for a population of nearly 27,000 last year.
Bob Calderone was a member and officer of the Summit County Fire Chiefs Association where he served as president from 1994 to 1996. C.C. Bittner worked with both father and son while he served as fire chief for the village of Lakemore. Bittner retired in 2008.
“We’re from the old school. Bob had a good teacher in his dad. Our word and our handshake really meant something,” Bittner said. “I think I’ve always thought so highly about him because he is so like his father.”
Mike Calderone died in 2007.
Bob Calderone said his career has had its challenges.
“The one I think about and can’t seem to stop thinking about it at times was on Wise Road,” he said. “There was a young mother with two kids, one child was probably 2 years old, the other probably 6. [She] went off the road around a curve and hit a tree and it immediately killed her.
“I was the first one on the scene and she was in the front seat. The kids were in the back seat and her son was trying to wake her up.”
Or, the three fire fatalities in 1982 at the former Bunker Ridge apartments.
“One of the biggest fears of any firefighter is that you are going to roll up on the scene of a traffic accident and find it’s someone you know or a family member. It never leaves you, but you let it hit you for a split second on the way to a call and then you dismiss it,” he said.
While he can boast that none of his firefighters have ever been seriously hurt on the job, Calderone said the most frightening moment of his career happened at a Cottage Grove Road fire when a firefighter fell through the floor into the basement.
“We couldn’t find him for several minutes. That was difficult,” Calderone said.
“It’s just like anything else, you learn to cope with that and deal with that and push it aside. You have to,” he said.
Calderone is grateful he’s been able to help build a department that has a solid reputation for excellence and credits the training he’s been able to provide thanks to the city.
“The Green Fire Department is held in high regard statewide by our peers. You don’t get that by sitting on our heels,” Calderone said.
He also credits his firefighters and others with the city.
“I didn’t do it, it’s all the staff,” he said.
A civil service test will be given to find Calderone’s replacement, Mayor Dick Norton said. The next chief could come from the ranks of the Green Fire Department, but for the first time in more than 45 years, it won’t be a Calderone, although his daughter, Carrie, 32, still represents the family as a dispatcher for the city.
“On a personal level, I am happy for him, but clearly we will miss his leadership,” Norton said. “He did a great job in his role providing such a vital service for our residents.”
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.