Longtime Louisa firefighter battles terminal cancer

Ronald Hankins has dedicated himself to helping people in Louisa County as a firefighter for more than 50 years. Now members of his firefighting family hope that the community will give back to him. Hankins was diagnosed in October with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that has spread to other major organs in his body. His

Matthew Hauschildt and Steve Parks, Louisa County career fire and rescue staff, are flanked by Locust Creek assistant chief Charles Simpson (left) and Ronald Hankins.

Ronald Hankins has dedicated himself to helping people in Louisa County as a firefighter for more than 50 years. Now members of his firefighting family hope that the community will give back to him.

Hankins was diagnosed in October with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that has spread to other major organs in his body. His chemo treatments have made him feel sick, and he’s dropped from 240 to 187 pounds.

Despite his pain and nausea, Hankins’s optimistic attitude shines through.

“He means a lot to the fire department,” Charles Simpson, assistant chief of Locust Creek Volunteer Fire Department said. “Even at his older age, he was always one to respond before he got ill.”

Hankins got his start as a fire fighter at age 16 at Holly Grove Volunteer Fire Department, then joined Locust Creek in August of 2006. Being involved in the fire department been one way for the former long-haul trucker to give back to the community he loves.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” Hankins said.

And since he is retired from his job, the crew has counted on him to run nearly all of the calls for service while the others work their day jobs.

“Pretty much, he’s indispensable,” Simpson said.

Mason Maddox III, a firefighter with Locust Creek, has tremendous respect for Hankins and all he has meant to the fire department over the years.

“He is one of the toughest guys you will ever meet and is willing to help anyone in need,” Maddox said. “My heart hurts that he is going through this battle. But with the odds against him, Ronnie is still giving it all he has, just like everything he has done in life.”

Hankins, who is a former chief at the department, has dedicated himself to the younger volunteers and driving the fire truck for them. In December, the fire department honored him for his more than a half-century of service.

His longtime friend, Monica Lloyd, has known Hankins for 55 years. She has the distinction of being Louisa County’s first female firefighter and served at Holly Grove Volunteer Fire Department in that capacity for 35 years. She and Hankins went to Louisa County High School together and his wife was Lloyd’s best friend.

“Ronnie is just a good old boy,” Lloyd said. “He’ll do anything for you.”

He has never been one to seek the limelight, is a loyal friend and has been there for people in the community no matter the situation, she said.

Donna Burns said the younger firefighters look up to Hankins, because he has always been there for them to drive the truck when they respond to calls. It takes a fair amount of time and volunteers have to be 21 and meet stringent requirements before they are released to drive a fire truck.

“He came all the time,” she said. “He was there so all the others who came could answer calls.”

In addition, Burns said that he has been a big proponent in helping the younger members move up.

“He always had time or everybody,” she said.

Last year, she said that he probably answered 70 percent of Locust Creek’s calls. Not only did he drive a fire truck, but he answered numerous calls for assistance, whether it was helping an elderly person get out of their car or assisting them up their front steps.

His inability to drive in recent months has really been felt by the department, whose members value his selfless contributions to the community.

“He will be a tremendous loss to our department,” Burns said. “ I wish there was more we could do.”

Hankins knows that his condition is terminal and said that he has made peace with the Lord. It means a lot to him when people call to check up on him, drop off food or pick him up and take him to the fire department.

“I have good days and bad days,” he said. “Right now, it’s all in the good Lord’s hands.”

What would give Hankins the most comfort is knowing that his wife, Pauline, is taken care of after he’s gone.

“She don’t say a whole lot. It’s hard,” he said. “I don’t want the fire department to ever forget my family.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Hankins’s final expenses so that his family won’t be burdened with the cost of his cremation and other final bills. The goal is to raise $5,000. To contribute,  Click here.

“He is a warrior and has served his time and then some,” Maddox said. “A simple thank you is not close to enough for a man so selfless and who has done so much for our community.”

(Article by Deana Meredith)

Edited for the web