ROCKY TOP, Tenn. (WATE) — A hero is being honored on the state level for his service to his community. Rocky Top Fire Chief Ronald “Ronnie” Gene Spitzer died earlier this year after contracting COVID-19 while on the job.
His family recently made the trip to Nashville to accept the Three Stars of Tennessee Award on his behalf. “He was a great provider, he was always there for us, he took care of us,” said his son Ronald Spitzer.
Ronald said his father, Ronnie Spitzer, was always there for his family and his community, “He was always looking out for everybody’s safety and he took that on his own.”
No matter the call, Chief Spitzer was there risking his life to save others. He was dispatched to a medical call on December 11, 2020, and it was later determined that the patient that he came in contact with was positive for COVID-19. It was on this call that Chief Spitzer contracted the virus.
Ronald said, “His kidneys gave out and that was about it. He passed away January 13 of this year.”
That was his final call. Now, he’s being honored by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security with the Three Stars of Tennesse Award.
The award recognizes law enforcement officers, firefighters, and first responders who have died or have suffered a career-ending injury in the line of duty. Ronnie’s Wife Sandy Spitzer said, “He was doing what he loved, and I knew there was a risk, but he wouldn’t have been doing anything else.”
She said she was honored to accept the award on his behalf, “I was filled with so much pride for him because he deserved this.”
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Ronnie and Sandy had been married for over 40 years. “I met my husband after my freshman year of high school,” Sandy said. “We got married a week before my 20th birthday.”
They have two children together. One is getting married this month and the other is expecting his first child. “Unfortunately he’s going to miss his first grandchild this December,” said Ronald.
Chief Spitzer won’t be there to create new memories, but his legacy will live on.
“He would have never wanted it but we want to honor him and we want to make sure he’s remembered for his service to the community and his 47 years as a firefighter,” said his son.
Chief Spitzer risked his life to save others, but his family said he would tell you he was just doing his job.
“He was just a wonderful person who was gone too soon,” said Sandy.
Chief Spitzer was one of seven recipients honored with the three stars of Tennessee Award this year. This is the eighth year the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security hosted this ceremony.