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Longtime Forest Grove fire chief dies


Bob Davis lauded as leader who secured stable funding for FGF&R

by: NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - Former Fire Chief Bob Davis, who passed away Friday, retired in 2004 after 40 years in the fire service, 25 of them in Forest Grove.Bob Davis was a firefighter at heart, a community servant, a husband, father, grandfather, friend — and auto mechanic.

One of the longest-tenured chiefs in the history of Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, Davis died Friday morning, March 1 at his home after a long illness at the age of 75.

Davis, who retired in January 2004 after 25 years as fire chief, spent the last nine years of his life fighting a variety of illnesses, including a rare skin disease, lung cancer, heart problems and pneumonia, said his daughter, Tracy Turner of Hillsboro.

“He was so ready, but still, it’s a shock,” said Turner, one of Bob and Norma Davis’ five children. “His entire life’s passion was being a fire chief. He was the strongest man I’ve ever known.”

In a prepared statement Monday, Mayor Pete Truax lauded Davis' "contribution to the safety of citizens in and around Forest Grove," adding that his "sense of service was second to none."

Davis’ son, Rob, remembered his father as a jack-of-all-trades who taught him how to build barns, install irrigation systems — even overhaul a car.

“When I got into my teens my dad told me if I wanted a car, I needed to build it,” he said. “I fell in love with the body style of the ’72 Chevy pickup, and set out on a mission to find one. (We got one) to the house on a flatbed tow truck and rolled it into the shop. Not a single piece of glass, engine, transmission or flake of paint were on that truck.

“Who would have thought, but my dad happened to be a bit of a mechanic, too. The day I turned 16, driver's license in hand, I drove that truck out of the driveway and off to high school I went.”

In 2000, Rob Davis joined the fire department as a cadet, following in his father’s footsteps. “It was my time to run calls right next to the man I looked up to so much,” he said. “Daytime, nighttime, family functions, Christmas — it didn't matter … when that pager went off we were running out the door.

“I look back now on all the things my dad taught me over the years, and (I) owe everything I am to him and my mom. He is my hero, the man I look up to.”

Six-year-old Madison Davis, one of Bob’s 12 grandchildren, wrote a note Friday and gave it to her parents, Brittany and Rob Davis. It read: “My grandpa was a firefighter and he was brave. He was a good grandpa and he loved See’s candy. I will miss you, Grandpa Davis.”

Long career

Davis started his long career in the fire service in 1961 in California, rising up through the ranks to eventually become chief of the Dinuba, Calif. fire department in 1973. He came to Oregon in 1978 to become Forest Grove’s chief.

He was instrumental in setting up FGF&R’s cadet program and in building the Gales Creek fire station, said Turner. He also oversaw the construction of the new fire station in Forest Grove, which opened on Ash Street in 1995.

“He was pretty proud of that,” noted Turner.

Former Forest Grove chief Bob Mills, who took the FGF&R helm after Davis retired, said his predecessor was “a great boss” who could hand out a reprimand “and then turn around and ask you out to coffee. He was fair — and the department just grew under him.”

Fire Marshal Dave Nemeyer posted a note about Davis’ passing on the FGF&R Facebook page Friday. In part, it read:

“It's with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of retired Fire Chief Bob Davis today. He remained the leader of our fire department until his retirement in 2004, making him one of the longest tenured fire chiefs in our 119-year history.

“We honor him today as the chief that always stood up for the jobs of his firefighters during the tough economy of the 1980s."

Services for Chief Davis will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 9 at Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, 1919 Ash St. His obituary appears on page A8.