Weekly Feature

2017-08-09 / Obituaries

Robert J. Spoth, 99; longtime Swormville firefighter

Managing Editor

Spoth Spoth Robert J. “Bob” Spoth, 99, a member of the Swormville Fire Company since 1938, died Monday, July 24, 2017.

His family has a long history of community service.

“There were nine Spoths in the fire company at one time,” he said in a 1988 interview. “That’s one reason why I hung on for so long. I’m the last one.”

He remained on active rolls for more than 50 years.

Mr. Spoth recalled one incident when a large shed used to store newspapers collected for a fund drive at St. Mary’s Church caught fire. Flaming embers shot into the sky while parishioners were attending Mass.

“It was a very anxious day,” he recalled. “There were men on the roof of every house putting out fires. We had to worry about the church and school too.”

This took place during a time when firefighters did not have personal pagers or text alerts; they relied on the wail of the siren at the firehouse.

“Of course, if you could see the smoke, you’d just head in that direction,” Mr. Spoth said.

The fire company hosted a summer picnic for 46 years as a means to raise money essential to keeping it afloat. One of the traditions was chicken chowder. Firefighters often had to chase down the fowl, who feared for their lives.

The picnics began the same year that the Swormville Fire Company was organized — 1918 — and only members and their wives were allowed to run booths. Brass bands were hired for entertainment.

Mr. Spoth retired from the Atlantic Richfield Petroleum Co. in 1978 and was able to devote more time to fishing and traveling, but he preferred Swormville.

“It’s always been a great place to live,” he said. “It’s home.”

He is survived by seven children, Janice Peters, Karen Mayer, Juliann, Dorothy Gallagher, Richard, Maryann Smith and Steven; a sibling, Jean Turton; 17 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, the former Dolores Vaawerk, and one child, Robert.

The family will be present to receive friends from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, and at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, at the Urban Brothers Funeral Home, 6685 Transit Road. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, at St. Mary’s Church, 6919 Transit Road.

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