W.Va, banquet honors public safety workers

February 03, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The tears started streaming down Debbie Keesecker's face as she walked to a podium Sunday night to accept a plaque honoring her husband's service as a volunteer fire chief.

Ed Keesecker, 42, was a quiet, unassuming man who helped raise the standards of fire protection in Berkeley County before dying of cancer on Jan. 5.

On Sunday, Ed Keesecker was honored along with police officers and fire and rescue officials from across the Eastern Panhandle at the Martinsburg Elks Lodge's third annual Law and Safety Day banquet.


Two Martinsburg police officers who saved a woman being choked by an ex-boyfriend were also recognized, along with a medic who convinced his fire company to start an ambulance service and a West Virginia trooper who made a record-number of drunken driving arrests.

But the emotional highlight of the evening was when Robert Robinson, chief of the Bedington Volunteer Fire Co. spoke of Ed Keesecker, the longtime chief of the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Co. Keesecker had joined the fire company at 15 and rose through the ranks to become chief.

"If there was a job to be done, Eddie was the first one to take it," Robinson said.

On Sunday evening, the crowd of about 70 rose to a standing ovation as Debbie Keesecker accepted the plaque.

"This is very nice. It has been a difficult time," she said later. "I miss him so much."

The Elks also honored the memory of Kenneth E. Butts, who died in January, for his years of service as the Office of Emergency Services Director in Morgan County. The audience again rose to their feet to applaud as his widow, Joy Butts, accepted the plaque.

Martinsburg City Police Patrolman Rick Rhinaman and Lt. Barbara Bartley received a special award for helping to save a woman in September 1994. Rhinaman arrived at the scene after a neighbor called for help.

Outside the apartment, Rhinaman said he could hear the woman calling for help. Unable to get the locked door open, he broke open a window only to find it boarded on the inside.

Rhinaman said that when he finally made it in, he found the attacker on the woman's back, choking her with the cord from a vacuum cleaner and a rope.

"He was choking her and he looked up at me and laughed," Rhinaman said.

Rhinaman said the lieutenant arrived to back him up, but there was not enough room for both of them to get inside to fight the man. He put his night stick around the attacker's neck with his knees on the man's back and pulled until the man was forced to let go of the woman.

The lieutenant and him were able to finally wrestle him into custody and they treated the woman's injuries until medics arrived.

Others honored:

Berkeley County

  • West Virginia State Police Senior Trooper Carl Mahood, who made 138 drunken driving arrests in 1996, an unofficial record for the state troopers.
  • Sheriff's deputy Robert Buracker.
  • Martinsburg City Police Patrolman Carl Franklin.
  • Firefighter Lt. Ed Gochenour.
  • Firefighter/paramedic Donald Shirley.

Jefferson County

  • State police Senior Trooper Kevin Pansch, whose investigation of a $216,000 embezzlement case at the Jefferson County Public Service Commission led to an indictment.
  • Sheriff's department Sgt. Andrew Sherman.
  • Ranson Police Patrolman Steve Harris.
  • Firefighter Lee Boyd.
  • Paramedic Lenny Lehman, who helped convince the Blue Ridge Summit Volunteer Fire Co. to start an ambulance service.

Morgan County

  • State police Senior Trooper Brian Bean.
The Herald-Mail Articles