POMEROY — A long-time public servant in Meigs County, Robert “Bob” Byer passed away on Sunday.
Byer, for whom the Meigs County Emergency Operations Center is named, served with the Emergency Management Agency and Emergency Medical Services in Meigs County, the Middleport Fire Department and Squad, and was a U.S. Army Veteran. He was also active in his church, the Middleport Lodge 363, American Legion Post 128 and the VFW in Tuppers Plains.
“Bob’s accomplishments and accolades span more than five decades of service to the citizens of our villages, townships, county, the state of Ohio, and the United States of America,” read a post on the Meigs County Firefighter’s Association Facebook page by Association President Derek Miller.
The post reads in part,
Bob joined the Middleport Fire Department and Emergency Squad in April 1959, after serving in the United States Army with a medical detachment in Germany. Bob spent 30 years as a member of the fire department and emergency squad, was a past Middleport Fire Chief, and a life member of the MFD.
Bob served as the director/administrator of the Meigs County Emergency Medical Services for 18 years, and Meigs County Emergency Management Agency for 25 years, serving as both EMS and EMA Director at the same time. After his retirement as EMS administrator in 2000, he continued as EMA Director through December 2015. As EMA Director, he applied for, planned, responded to, mitigated, and helped Meigs County recover from many disasters that affected Meigs County citizens and infrastructure. Bob’s hard work allowed first responders to have training opportunities as well as up to date communication equipment that was desperately needed for interoperability within the county. His greatest accomplishment as director was chairing the committee that brought Meigs County a centralized dispatch system for EMS and Fire.
As a result of his life-time service to Meigs County, and writing the grant for the new Emergency Operations Center on Pomeroy Pike, the Meigs County Commissioners named the new EMS/EMA building the “Robert E. Byer Emergency Operations Center.”
Bob’s other local service included being the chairperson of the Meigs County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). For several years, Bob single-handedly ran the Meigs County Firefighter’s Association. He lined up the guest speakers, balanced the checkbook, and distributed information to the 12 Meigs County Fire Departments. If not for Bob pushing the Firefighter’s Association throughout the lean years, we would not be the strong association we are today. He was also named Honorary Dean of the 2015 Hocking Valley Regional Fire School.
Other accomplishments include a term as President of the Ohio Emergency Medical Association, and a founding member of the Ohio EMS Board.
The Meigs County Firefighter’s Association passes along our condolences to Bob’s family, friends, past co-workers, and members of the Middleport Fire Department. We extend our prayers to each and every one of you.
Bob’s legacy of service and professionalism will be missed, but never forgotten.
Many local fire departments and emergency response agencies also remembered Byer’s legacy and contributions to emergency services in the county and region.
“The Meigs County Emergency Management Agency is extremely saddened after the loss of retired Director Robert E. (Bob) Byer. Bob was a great man who devoted his life to serving the citizens of Meigs County and the United States of America. Bob was a great leader and mentor to many in the emergency management, fire, emergency medical, and 911 dispatch fields. Bob will never be forgotten by the people who knew him. We ask you keep Bob’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers during these difficult times,” said current EMA Director Jamie Jones.
In a Facebook post, Athens County EMS paid tribute to Byer. “Athens County EMS is saddened to learn that retired Meigs County EMS and EMA Director Robert Byer passed away this weekend. Bob had a long and storied career in a variety of public safety roles.”
In a post on Sunday evening with photos of Byer throughout the years, the Middleport Fire Department announced the passing of “Unit 101” former Chief and life member of the department Byer.
“Today Meigs County lost a great man. Robert “Bob” Byer was the director of Meigs EMS for many years and made it one of the most respected systems in the state. He also done so much for the county as the EMA director in securing whatever was needed to prepare or repair after natural disasters. Our thoughts and prayers for his family. RIP Bob you’ll be missed,” read a post from the Syracuse Volunteer Fire Department.
While Byer spent his career in emergency services, he was active in American Legion Post 128 of Middleport, Middleport Lodge 363 and other organizations in the county.
Byer was elected last year as Post 128 Commander, having previously served as Sergeant-in-Arms.
“He barely missed any funerals, Veterans Day events, Memorial Day events or other activities of the Legion,” said Legion member Roscoe Wise, a long time friend of Byer’s.
“Bob was instrumental in everything at the Legion,” said Wise, noting that Byer could often be found running the kitchen on Saturday evenings as the Legion hosted Bingo.
Byer was recognized over the years as Legionnaire of the Year and Legionnaire of the Decade at Post 128.
“We will deeply miss him; he is already missed,” said Wise. Byer was always one to work with the other local legions or organizations which may have needed assistance, he added.
“Bob wasn’t just a great public servant but he was a great man, mentor, and son of Meigs County. We lift his family and our community up in prayer,” said Commissioner Randy Smith.
“He encouraged people like they were his own children, whether in Lodge, in the church, or public service,” added Smith. “He is what you think of as a patriarch of a family. He had pride for his children and grandchildren.”
Don Stivers of Middleport recalled the numerous roles Byer played over the years and the organizations he was involved in.
“He was the fire chief when I came on (the Middelport Fire Department) in 1975. I was a young pup, 19 years old, couldn’t wait…Bob took me under his wing. When he was the EMS administrator I was a paramedic.He took EMS and built it into a really good system. We were intertwined for many years,” said Stivers. “He brought us all together and made us all better.”
When Stivers joined the Middleport Lodge, Byer was once again there.
“He always did the right thing, the fair thing. Whatever organization he joined, he gave 100 percent,” said Stivers.
“There are very few like Bob. He is who you strive to be,” said Stivers.
“The world was a much, much better place with him in it. He is going to be sorely missed,” said Stivers.
A complete obituary for Byer appears on page A2 of today’s edition of The Daily Sentinel.
Editor’s Note: Information for the memorial posed the the Firefighter’s Association page includes information from the 2015 Hocking Valley Regional Fire School biography that was collected and written by current Middleport Fire Chief Jeff Darst.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.