Oldest active firefighter in IL has no plans to retire - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Oldest active firefighter in IL has no plans to retire

(Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS) (Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS)
(Source: Family) (Source: Family)

Bob Rust, a volunteer firefighter for the Coulterville Community Fire Protection District, is known as someone that is always there.

"If he doesn't show up to the meeting on Monday then everybody is like 'Where is Bob at? We can't start until he's here," said Dustin Hood, a volunteer firefighter.

That has been the case for 70 years.

In seven decades, Bob's wife Melba said Bob has never missed a call.

"Seventeen below one night, I remember, I worried whether he was going to keep warm but he made it through these years."

In fact, Bob is said to be the oldest active firefighter in the state of Illinois.

Rep. Jerry Costello honored Bob with a plaque on Sunday, Oct. 8 for his service.

"The only time in those 70 years that he wasn't in the community here, he was away serving our country," Costello said. "Bob is a veteran as well, and obviously deserves great recognition."

Bob's boss in 1946 put Bob on the fire department. Bob was only 16 years old.

"We used to joke we had an old fire truck that had a hand crank on the side of it. That was my job."

Bob explained the rest is history.

"Can't remember most of it," Bob said.

From car crashes to farm accidents, even the faces on the department have changed.

But Bob said he has just evolved with it.

"You don't see this anywhere else. It's something special that we have," Hood said.

Hood explained the young guys on the department look up to Bob as a lifetime volunteer.

"It's just a certain breed of people that do this but he's one of them," Hood said.

As a volunteer, Bob doesn't have to respond to any of the calls, but he chooses to.

"If the beeper goes well I go check it out right away," Bob said. "My deal anymore is keep the guys from having to leave their jobs. If it's something we can handle with a fire extinguisher and in town I go there immediately and then call them off."

Melba said the fire department is his life.

"He cares so much about people that he wants to help the community to make it a better community," Melba said. "This was his desire. I really believe that was what God wanted him to do."

After 70 years, Bob said he has no plans to retire.

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