The COVID-19 pandemic is making it difficult for the Floyd County Emergency and Rescue Squad to collectively grieve the loss of members of its “family.”
On Saturday, squad members joined the Prestonsburg Fire Department in escorting the funeral procession for Fred L. Goble, 90, of Prestonsburg, who died May 6.
“Fred Goble, we have your watch and will take it from here,” the Prestonsburg Fire Department stated on social media. “You will be deeply missed and forever loved. We are thankful to honor you and proud to have served with you.”
Goble was the squad’s last surviving charter member. He helped launch the organization after the 1958 school bus disaster.
He joined several others in the community to search the river for 26 children who died in the school bus wreck in February 1958. It took rescuers more until May to find all of the bodies of these children, and they worked day and night to find them.
The Floyd County Emergency and Rescue Squad was Kentucky’s first rescue squad and, in addition to providing emergency services, it now specializes in training first responders from all over the country in swift water rescue.
Captain Ritchie Schoolcraft said although Goble no longer answered emergency calls, he still attended squad meetings and events like the radio auction.
“If we needed Freddie, he was there,” Schoolcraft said.
He described him as a strong leader.
“Freddie Goble, in his younger years, he was a heck a leader for this town and the rescue squad,” he said. “They’ve told me stories about when the bus went into the river, he jumped right in to help. You didn’t have to ask him. So, that tells you right there, what kind of leader he was.”
Goble died five months following the death of his wife of 70 years, Anna Mae. He owned Valley Pipelines and enjoyed several hobbies, including flying. Known as “Pappy,” he left his family with a “legacy of fun, laughter and practical jokes,” his obituary said.
Carter Funeral Home arranged his funeral in a private setting due to the restrictions required because of COVID-19.
Schoolcraft said Goble’s death is one of three the squad has experienced in the last two months, with the loss of member Debbie Prater, who had served the squad for years, and Glenna Sexton, the wife of treasurer/secretary Brian Sexton, who also recently died.
“We’ve had three deaths in the last two months. It’s been tough on our organization,” Schoolcraft said. “We don’t have get togethers or meetings. We all come together whenever we have a call, you know. Other than that, we just keep in touch. It’s a tough time right now, to really grieve as a group and talk about it because we can’t get together.”
He said the squad is planning to host a service in the future to honor these members of the squad’s “family.”
“We hate that we lost Fred Goble. He was the last surviving charter member,” Schoolcraft said. “We really hate the fact that we couldn’t have a more respectful service, from the rescue squad’s point of view, because of the pandemic and social distancing, to honor him for all the years that he was in service. But we will at a later date. We’re planning to do that.”
Because of the pandemic, the squad is currently operating with no revenues coming in, and is, instead, using its savings.
With social distancing restrictions in place, the squad had to cancel its fundraising bingo games and its swift water rescue trainings. Schoolcraft said it has also cancelled its annual radio auction this year. He said it’ll mark the first year that the radio auction is not held at the squad.
“It was a tough call to make, but you can’t ask businesses to give you money or items to auction with them being closed,” Schoolcraft said. “With these businesses and doctors and attorneys, they’ve always supported us, and I guess you can say we’re going to support them this year by not asking them.”
For more information about the squad, visit, fcers.org.