Former Prairie Fire Chief Robert "Bob" Stormont is being remembered as a leader who set the stage for growth and innovation.

Stormont died Feb. 20 at the age of 85. Funeral services were held Feb. 26.

A 1950 graduate of Hilliard High School, Stormont began his career as a cadet firefighter with Prairie Township. He spent 41 years with the department, serving as fire chief for 11 years.

Current fire Chief Chris Snyder was one of a half-dozen firefighters hired by Stormont in 1985.

That year, Stormont led the department's transition from part-time staffing to providing 24/7 coverage -- a first for the township.

"That was a huge change. I'm one of three remaining staff members currently working who was hired when he was serving in the chief position," Snyder said.

"Every day was covered by full-time staffing, for the first time. It was the beginning of using a typical firefighter shift -- 24 hours on and 48 hours off."

To provide the type of coverage that is now commonplace meant hiring firefighters from outside the township, Snyder said. It also required the construction of a new fire station, Station 241, at 123 Inah Ave.

Station 241, which opened in 1987, now serves as the department's headquarters.

"That was a major undertaking," Snyder said. "It shows how the foundations set many years ago still have an impact today."

Stormont also was instrumental in obtaining the department's first computer, used for dispatching and record-keeping.

"I don't think we ever got it to the level that it provided the service that we thought it would," Snyder said. "Now computers are the backbone of everything we do here, whether in the station or in our pockets. But at that time, that was a big thing."

Prairie Township trustee Doug Stormont said his father was among the founding members of the township fire department.

"The whole time I was a kid, I was at the firehouse and township meetings," he said. "I used to sort the fish for the annual fish fry."

Doug Stormont said his father's years of service influenced his own decision to run for office, although his dad often teased him about it.

"Every election, he'd ask me if I was going to run again," Stormont said. "But I think he was glad I stayed with it."

Even after his retirement in 1991, the elder Stormont continued to work for the township as a contractor, mowing grass for the road department until 2002.

"He was a well-respected fire chief," trustee Chairman Steve Kennedy said.

"Anybody that worked underneath of him always said he was a great person to work for."

Snyder credits Stormont with helping to set the tone for the fire department as it now functions.

"Chief Stormont wasn't one that would limit you in what you could do," Snyder said. "He is often described as a man of few words but you knew the expectations. He wasn't a micromanager, but very silently, in his own way, he could still signal the direction you needed to go."

Stormont attended Columbia Heights United Methodist Church for more than 70 years.

A U.S. Army veteran, he was a member of West Gate Lodge 623 F.& A.M., the American Legion, and Moose Lodge 11.

Stormont is survived by his children, Gregory (Rachel) Stormont, Doug (Becky) Stormont and Janice (Gregory) Bell; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Donations in Stormont's memory may be made to Get Behind the Badge, 538 S. Yearling Road, Suite 103, Whitehall, Ohio 43213 or online at getbehindthebadge.org.

To leave the family online condolences, visit www.tiddfuneralservice.com.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews