WEST HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Firefighters from about a dozen fire companies came together to say goodbye to a much beloved and dedicated public servant.
Former West Hazleton Fire Chief Robert Ward died last weekend after 38 years of service.
“Fire Chief, a great friend, and brother, Chief Ward – Robert Ward,” said Chief Donald Leshko, Hazleton Fire Department.
Close to freezing temperatures didn’t stop fire communities all over NEPA to come together to lay 71-year-old former West Hazleton Fire Chief Robert Ward to rest.
“I will guarantee he probably taught or had touched the loves of every firefighter of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Gary Perna, former President, Six County Fireman’s Association of Pennsylvania.
The funeral was held at St. Gabriel’s Church in Hazleton Saturday morning, one week after Ward died. Chief Leshko says holding such a service can be complicated during a pandemic. Not everyone could stay in the church for the service, so the day was live streamed on Facebook.
“We had to make sure stays safe that’s most important, but to see everybody out here this morning and everybody is following you know CDC guidelines and all that, it just shows. Not only, it just shows the true man that he was and the respect he had and how much he was loved in the firefighting community,” said Chief Leshko.
Both Chief Leshko and Perna knew Chief Ward from their childhood into their own firefighting careers. Perna says Ward was involved in almost every aspect of emergency services, but he always loved a good laugh.
“He would always bust me about my white, crisp clean white shirts, and said ‘did your mother do your shirts this morning,’ and I wrote this morning on my social media thing, I says ‘my mom did my white shirts for ya’,” said Chief Leshko.
“He had such a grin. It was the famous Bob Ward grin. If we were having a class and they were taking photos or whatever, you could always see he had that little stance and that little grin, and that was true Bob Ward,” said Perna.
Chief Robert Ward’s last call was held at the West Hazleton Fire Station after traveling through his native Hazleton one last time.