Jeff Stroble, a firefighter with the Roswell Fire Department who died in July from injuries he sustained in a fireworks explosion, will be the honorary grand marshal of the 2019 Eastern New Mexico State Fair Parade.
The announcement that Stroble will be the honorary grand marshal of the Sept. 30 parade — which heralds the start of the seven-day fair — was made in a message posted on the fair’s official Facebook page.
“We are very honored to recognize our fallen local hero as the Grand Marshall for this year’s Eastern NM State Fair. His family will be leading our parade to pay tribute to the life that he lived and all that he gave for them and our community. #RFDStrong #alwaysforeverourhero,” the post states.
A fire apparatus operator with the RFD for 17 years, Stroble, 46, and 11 of his colleagues were in a concrete building preparing fireworks for the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration when an explosion occurred.
Stroble and Robert “Hoby” Bonham, 36 — an 18-year firefighter with the department — were both severely burned and had to be transported to United Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas for treatment. The other 10 firefighters in the building at the time of the explosion were treated for what were described as minor injuries.
Bonham returned home June 29 to continue outpatient treatment and recovery. However, after multiple surgeries, Stroble succumbed to his injuries July 21.
Adriann Ragsdale, a longtime member of the Eastern New Mexico State Fair Board and superintendent of the parade, said the proposal to make Stroble honorary grand marshal was brought before the fair board at an August meeting. The recommendation to approach Stroble’s family with the idea received unanimous support from the board.
“As a fair board, we acknowledge what — I guess what a loss it has been to our community and how much it’s affected our community, and we wanted to acknowledge our support of the Stroble family and the entire fire department family,” Ragsdale said.
Stroble’s family members are encouraged to ride in the parade. His widow Reba said Monday that she felt emotional and honored when the idea was presented to her.
“It is a beautiful tribute to an amazing guy,” she said.
The grand marshal traditionally rides at the front of the parade, leading the other floats and marchers along the route. Reba Stroble confirmed some family members will ride in the parade.
“Our daughter wants to ride in a fire truck in the parade, like she always did with her father in the parade, like she always did with her dad, so that is what we will do,” she said.
When asked what her husband would have thought about being named the parade’s grand marshal, she said her husband was a very private and humble man who would be somewhat embarrassed, but she is sure he would have felt honored too.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.