HOLLIDAYSBURG - Despite falling and fracturing his clavicle - collarbone - Bob Kerns wasn't about to miss the April 12 meeting of the Phoenix Volunteer Fire Company.
Three days later, he was at the Allied Volunteer Firemen's Association of Blair County meeting taking the minutes.
A week later he was gone. Robert E. Kerns, 72, longtime Hollidaysburg fire marshal and former Phoenix fire chief, died Monday at Altoona Regional.
See obituary, Page A9
"Up until the end, his mind was sharp as a knife," said Phoenix president, chaplain and safety officer David Zeek, who had known Kerns since the mid-1960s when Zeek joined the fire company. "He broke me into the fire service. He was the man I fought my very first fire with."
When it came to fire service, Kerns was at the top of the list, Mayor Joseph Dodson said. "He was a mainstay as far as the fire company, fire marshal and first responders."
"He was always there to lend that helping hand," Dodson said. "Bob had his place in the burg, and his heart was in the burg. He was a big part of Hollidaysburg."
Kerns wanted to make the Phoenix Volunteer Fire Company the best it could be, said David Patterson, former fire company president.
"He was always interested in seeing that the men and women had the best training they could have. Bob was never interested in getting any accolades for himself; he always wanted the men underneath him to get their picture in the paper," David Patterson said. "He will be remembered as somebody who put Hollidaysburg first, to make the town a better place to live."
Kerns was very well known in the fire service community, said retired Altoona Fire Chief Reynold D. Santone Jr., who had known Kerns for more than 40 years.
"Anytime you would go to a state convention, people would recognize him. Bob Kerns was known throughout the state in fire service," Santone said. "When you lose a guy like Bob Kerns, you can't replace him. Bob Kerns was a very special person."
Others referred to Kerns as a very dedicated man.
"He was dedicated to his job and the people of Hollidaysburg. Hollidaysburg and its people were his extended family," said Ann Andrews, who served as borough secretary for 38 years.
"He was very dedicated to the fire company and community. He was a good faithful and hard worker for everything he got involved in," said Joseph Patterson, senior vice commander of American Legion Fort Fetter Post 516, Hollidaysburg, where Kerns had served as club steward. "I think he was just dedicated to the betterment of Hollidaysburg."
Kerns also was well known as owner of the Blue and White Snack Bar with his wife, Nancy, and for his role in the Hollidaysburg Alumni Band. He also helped form the fire company band years ago.
"He was a good drummer. We played together years ago in the fire company band," said J. Terry Wilt, also a member of the alumni band. "He was just a nice fellow, I have nice memories of him.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Plank, Stitt & Stevens Funeral Home, 421 Montgomery St., Hollidaysburg, where a fireman's service will be held at 6:30 p.m. and 9 until the 10 a.m. funeral service on Friday at First United Methodist Church, Hollidaysburg. The Revs. Dennis Derr and Dr. D.L. Brinton Shafer will officiate with interment at Alto-Reste Park Cemetery.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.