Firefighter died at job he'd dreamed of as a boy

June 04, 1991|By Keith Paul

When Eddie Arthur was a young boy, his mother had to spank him for running into the street to chase a fire engine. Almost every toy he had, or had asked for, had something to do with fighting fires.

From the time he was 3 years old, all Eddie Arthur ever wanted was to be a firefighter.

"He loved the sound of the fire trucks," recalled Lillie Mae Campbell, who mourned yesterday for a son who died doing a job he loved. "I was very proud of him being a fireman because he wanted it so much. It was his dream."

Mr. Arthur, 37, was killed about noon Saturday when a trainee he was teaching to steer a hook and ladder truck lost control while making a U-turn on a parking lot at the Seton Industrial Park, Baltimore police reported.

The rear of the truck swung around and smacked into a concrete structure, throwing Mr. Arthur to the ground. He died of multiple injuries about 2 p.m. at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Mr. Arthur had been riding on the rear running board while another firefighter was steering the truck, said Capt. Patrick P. Flynn, a Fire Department spokesman.

Mr. Arthur, who had worked for the city department since 1977, lived in the 5500 block of Perring Parkway. He was assigned to Truck Company 12 in the 3900 block of Liberty Heights Avenue. He was senior man at the station, said his wife, Rondi, and often taught newcomers how to drive the hook and ladder.

"He use to say that Truck 12 was 'his' truck and no one could drive better," Mrs. Arthur said.

Mr. Arthur would call the station when he was not on duty to see what was going on, Mrs. Arthur recalled.

"He touched a lot of people's lives," she said. "Because of his occupation he came in contact with a lot of people."

He had a constant love for being a firefighter, said Lt. James Bethea, Mr. Arthur's supervisor. "I have always enjoyed coming to work with Eddie."

While Mr. Arthur was not an officer, he led the younger firefighters by example and they looked up to him, Lieutenant Bethea said.

"Sometimes we have a tendency to identify heroes by the number of awards or physical things they have to show," Lieutenant Bethea said, "but all we need to do is look at the way he carried himself."

Mr. Arthur was injured several times in the line of duty, he said.

"Those things never shook his faith in the service to his community or co-workers," Lieutenant Bethea said. "Knowing his devotion, in the true sense of the word Eddie was a hero."

Mr. Arthur was also known as "Mr. Fix-it" because he helped relatives and friends so often around the house.

On Mother's Day during dinner, his sister, May Williams, recalled, Mr. Arthur noticed a light was flickering and started to fix it.

"I thought we would all be electrocuted, but he fixed it," she said. "That's just the way he was."

On the day he died, Mr. Arthur had clippers in his car because after work he was going to go to his brother's house to clip the hedges, she said.

The news of his death was devastating for his children, a son Shante, 19, and daughter, Shalonda, 14, Mrs. Arthur said. "My daughter doesn't believe it happened. It's going to be really hard for her," she said. "She was daddy's little girl."

Eddie Arthur's funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Perkins Square Baptist Church, Edmondson and Warwick avenues.

Mrs. Arthur said she was never afraid for her husband while he was at work and he never worried either, not even after he broke his leg during an explosion in the early 1980s and was laid up for six months.

"He was not discouraged. He was never afraid," Mrs. Arthur said.

Eddie Arthur just loved being a firefighter.

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