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City honors local hero Jeff Stroble

Lt. Warren Aldrich, left, and Tony Stroble unveil the memorial honoring fallen firefighter Jeff Stroble during a Saturday ceremony at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center. Aldrich is Jeff’s brother-in-law. Tony Stroble is Jeff’s brother. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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In his remarks at the Saturday morning unveiling of a memorial for fallen firefighter Jeff Stroble, Lawrence Lovato said the hope is that another name never has to be added to the new monument, engraved with the words “Jeffrey Stroble, EOW July 21, 2019” and bearing the Roswell Fire Department insignia and Stroble’s helmet number, 192.

The Aldrich and Stroble families. Back row from left, Sarah Aldrich, Lt. Warren Aldrich, Buck Aldrich, Jeannie Aldrich, Chuck Stroble, Kinzie Stroble, Annie Stroble and Lisa Tyler. Front row from left, Noah Stroble, Reba Stroble, Kadie Stroble, Jonah Stroble, Tony Stroble and Kenna Aldrich. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The end of watch for Stroble, a fire apparatus operator for 17 years, occurred in a Lubbock hospital six and a half weeks after a June 5 fireworks explosion in a bunker at the Roswell airfield.

He died at the age of 46 from injuries sustained in an accident that occurred as he and 11 other firefighters were preparing for a Fourth of July fireworks display.

Another firefighter, Robert “Hoby” Bonham, also was seriously injured but returned to Roswell in late June to continue his recovery.

Six months after Stroble’s death, the Roswell community gathered at the Chaves County Fallen Heroes Memorial in the lawn north of the Roswell Convention & Civic Center to pay tribute to a man beloved by his family and hailed as a hero.

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Among those attending were city officials; what Fire Chief Devin Graham described as a “collection of antique fire fighting equipment” in the form of retired fire chiefs, marshals and firefighters; current Roswell Fire Department members; and the family of Jeff Stroble and his in-laws, the Aldriches.

“It is a continuation of a somber occasion, but it is also a start to the memorial of Jeff moving forward,” said Roswell Fire Department Chief Devin Graham. “So as somber as it is, it is also a joyous occasion that we can come and mark the memory of Jeff moving forward.”

While memories of the community can fade, Graham said, the memorial will “stand for generations to come” and “will forever be a marker and a memory” of Stroble’s service.

“To most — especially the Strobles and Aldriches, the Roswell Fire Department family, which is one and the same, and those closest to Jeff — there is a deeper meaning,” Graham said. “This upright granite tablet stands as a testament to the sacrifice that Jeff made, the ultimate sacrifice paid for the community that he served, the community he chose to live and raise his family in, and the community that should never forget the sacrifice he and his family have made.”

The Fallen Heroes Memorial for local law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who die in the line of duty was first established in 2003 by the Lovato family, Bobby Villegas and other donors in the community. The impetus was to memorialize the lives of first responders lost in two tragic incidents.

On Oct. 19, 2001, state police officers Ramon Robert Solis and Damon Kyle Talbott died in a helicopter crash during training. On March 16, 2002, Lovato’s son, EMT Steve Lovato, passed away along with firefighter Steven Louis Jones, after being shot by someone who had set fire to a house.

Part of the reason for the memorial was to help families in their grieving process, said Villegas, whose family was friends with the Solis and Talbotts. Villegas said he was among those to coordinate with the city to establish the memorial and researched all those who had died while on duty in Chaves County, dating back to 1901, to add their names to the two monuments. With Stroble and the third marker, there are now 17 people recognized for their service.

The Stroble memorial was funded by the Roswell Professional Firefighters Association, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Juan Oropesa, Louis Mestas, Joe and Rosa Luna, Jose Zavala, Sandra Quintero and Villegas. Dee Dyess of House of Flowers donated the wreath for the ceremony.

Several of the Aldriches and Strobles expressed their gratitude to the community.

“I am just proud of the way my son did his service and proud of the people of Roswell,” said Chuck Stroble, Jeff’s father. “I would like to thank everyone in this town. I have never been so proud to be a Roswellite. They really, really did a lot for my son. I’ve been meaning to say that for a long time.”

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