Memorial held in Malone’s honor
At a touching ceremony Monday afternoon, members of the Russellville Fire Department presented a shadowbox to Michael Malone, son of former Russellville Fire Marshal and Assistant Fire Chief Bobby Malone who passed away on February 16.
The shadowbox contained an American flag along with all the badges Bobby earned during his 31 years as a member of the Russellville Fire Department.
Russellville Fire Chief Joe Mansell said the ceremony was something the men in the department wanted to do for Michael because he is still a part of their firefighter family.
“I watched Michael grow up at this department and spent many afternoons playing baseball or basketball with him in the lot near the old fire station downtown,” Mansell said. “We’re just like one big family here. We treat other firefighters’ kids like they’re our own, and even though Bobby is gone, Michael is still part of this family.”
Michael said he couldn’t remember a time in his life growing up where the Russellville Fire Department didn’t play a major role.
“I’m 32 and my dad worked here for 31 years, so this has always been a part of my life,” Michael said. “I would go with him sometimes on fire calls and sit in the passenger seat and watch him fight fires. I also worked with him a couple of times at NorthStar. He loved what he did and I loved being part of it.
“I can’t express my thanks to the people in this department enough,” Michael added. “I hope they know how much this ceremony and everything else they have done has meant to me.”
The fact that Bobby loved his job is something everyone who knew him could agree on. He had dedication and compassion that others could learn from.
“Bobby always said this wasn’t just a job, it was his life,” Shelia Davis said, “and it really was. He took great pride in what he did.”
Bobby’s love for his job was only surpassed by his love for his family, especially his new granddaughter, Makayla Grace Malone.
“We are so glad that Bobby was able to see her and spend a good six weeks with her,” Michael’s wife, Lisa, said. “He was a wonderful father, father-in-law and grandfather.”
“I loved my dad very much and all the morals and values I have are a direct result of what I learned from him,” Michael added. “He was a great man.”
Several of the men who worked closely with Bobby said they would never forget him or the good example he has left behind for others to follow.
“I worked on the same shift with Bobby for a year and he was just fun to be around,” firefighter Jonathan Pace said. “He always knew what to do and what not to do, and he was somebody who would give it to you straight, whether you wanted to hear it or not. He was just a good role model to all of us.”
“I could talk to Bobby about anything and he was like a big brother to me,” firefighter Michael Hall said. “He really led by example and I admired him for that.”
“My favorite part about Bobby is that you never had to wonder what he was thinking,” Lt. Neil Willis said while laughing. “He was honest and didn’t ever leave anything to question.
“He was also a mentor and someone I could learn from whether it was about firefighting or finances. He always seemed to have the answer. I’m grateful I had the chance to know him and work with him.”
The guys at the station swapped stories back and forth and they all laughed at some of the funnier stories like when Hall mentioned how Bobby was so hot natured.
“It didn’t matter how cold it was outside, Bobby would always be wearing short sleeves,” Hall said.
“I remember he was wearing short sleeves the day of the Christmas fire downtown,” Willis added. “We were all soaking wet and frozen solid but there was Bobby with his short-sleeve shirt on.”
Bobby was clearly a fun person to have around and someone who could always be counted on for a good laugh, but it was also clear that he was seen as the foundation of the department due to his experience and knowledge.
“Bobby had been here longer than anyone and had been through all the different stages of this department,” Willis said. “He started here when this was just becoming a paid department and they went through some tough times back then.
“They would have four or five fires per shift sometimes because they still had to deal with those old wood houses with terrible electrical problems and they had to fight those fires with minimal equipment and manpower.
“He received a lot of hands-on training that we’ll never get and he’s passed that knowledge down to all of us. Bobby was definitely a leader in getting us where we are today.”
In addition to his experience and knowledge, Mansell said Bobby also contributed to the department by being a major asset in getting the new fire station on Jackson Avenue completed.
“Bobby had been here 31 years, so he knew the need we had for a new station,” Mansell said. “He was actually instrumental in building the upstairs living quarters at the old station, so Bobby was always trying to make sure our guys had everything they needed.”
Former Fire Chief Harlan Hutcheson, who first hired Bobby in 1979, recalled the time when Bobby was fighting a fire at the old Flower Craft building and fell through the second floor while trying to keep the fire from extending to other parts of the building. Bobby actually fell on his air pack and fractured his back.
“Bobby was a dedicated firefighter and someone we could always count on,” Hutcheson said. “He put 100 percent behind everything he did.
“He was really a jack of all trades – a firefighter, paramedic, mechanic and construction engineer. He was always a part of every project we did.”
During his 31 years of service, Bobby was promoted from a firefighter to a lieutenant in 1990 and was promoted to assistant fire chief and the fire marshal for Russellville in 2003.
Bobby earned many certifications through the Alabama Fire College, and he was a member of the Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs, the Alabama Association of Fire Marshals and the National Fire Protection Association.
Bobby was also honored to be named Franklin County’s Firefighter of the Year on two separate occasions in 1984 and 2003.
“When you lose someone like Bobby Malone, that’s just a spot you can never fill,” Mansell said. “But Bobby would want us to move on and continue to serve the people of this community that he loved serving all those years, and that’s what we’ll do.
“But we’ll never forget Bobby or the life he led. He will always be a part of this place.”