Huber Heights Fire Division chaplain Pastor Dennis Dobbins retired this month after 18 years.
The former pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church said he now looks forward to spending time at Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Springfield and enjoying retirement with his wife, kids and grandkids.
Dobbins’ baptism into the department was swift. On June 22, 2001, 6-month-old Huber Heights boy Cameron Pierce — strapped in a car seat — was killed when he was ejected from a car involved in a two-vehicle accident on Interstate 70.
“I got initiated pretty abruptly,” Dobbins said. “It was quickly evident that many of the firefighters were impacted by this.”
Fire Chief Mark Ashworth recalled how, years later, another child died at the Kroger Aquatic Center. A 3-year-old boy, Tyree Dukes, accidentally drowned at the city-owned YMCA facility in 2012. Again, Dobbins was there to provide assistance.
“If for nothing than just to be here,” Ashworth said. “He was never one to be pushy. He was just available. Firemen are kind of funny, we don’t like to talk about our job too much. We like to think we have a shroud of steel.”
“In some regards, it’s difficult to get them to open up about most things,” Ashworth said.
For years, Dobbins not only counseled firefighters, but eased their burden too by caring for others who — were it not for the chaplain — would have been their responsibility. So that firefighters could catch a break, he spent time with suicidal individuals, whose ideations frequently fall to the care of first responders. So that firefighters could fight fires and render medical aid without distraction, Dobbins met on-scene with the families of those experiencing life’s worst traumas.
Back at the firehouse, the bonds were strong, too. “It is difficult” to retire, Dobbins said, “because you develop a relationship with the people there.”
“It’s a camaraderie that you don’t get anywhere else,” he said. “I was very honored to be a part of it.”
Ashworth said the department is looking for a new chaplain.