Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

April 28, 2013

Video tributes give insights into West first responders

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Perhaps one of the most inspiring aspects of the firefighters’ memorial Thursday in Waco were the video tributes by family and friends of the 12 men killed in the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West on April 17.

The videos were filmed by Baylor staff, and were of friends or family members who spoke longingly and fondly of their loved ones who had died.

Morris Wayne Bridges, Jr., 40, was one of the West firefighters who responded to the fire and was caught up in the blast.

“He’d have done anything for anybody,” said his wife, Carmen Bridges. He is survived by his wife, three children and two sisters.

Perry Wayne Calvin, 37, of Emmett in Navarro County was in EMT training in West that day, and responded along with three others in the class to the code that firefighters were in danger. He is survived by his wife, two sons and extended family. His video tribute was delivered by his friend, Ronald Burton.

Burton described a man who was forceful, determined, fun to be around, and generous with his opinions, time and energy.

“I don’t think he ever met a stranger — and if he did he wasn’t a stranger long,” Burton said of his friend.

Jerry Dane Chapman, 26, was described as a person with infinite energy and enthusiasm which eventually found its way out in firefighting. His “free spirit,” took flight in video games and the joy he found in Batman, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. He is survived by his parents, grandparents and one sister.

Cody Frank Dragoo, 50, was from Billings, Montana, and moved to West about 16 years ago. In a bar, he met Patty Mynar, who had said she would only fall in love again if she met a mountain man from Montana. Cody married Patty in 1997, and was an employee of the fertilizer plant, and a volunteer fireman, according to his brother-in–law, Tony Kubacak. His involvement with the community included organizing the annual barbecue cook-off and tractor pull to raise money for the fire department, membership in the local Knights of Columbus, and president of the water supply. He is survived by his wife and extended family.

“Cody was truly a blessing to our family,” Kubacak said.

Kenneth “Luckey” Harris, Jr., 52, was a Dallas firefighter who lived in West. He is survived by his wife, three sons, parents, sisters and extended family.

“He always put other people before himself,” said his son, Jud Harris.

Jimmy Ray Matus, 52, was a pillar of the West community, serving on the school board, and a member of the SPJST Lodge, the Masonic Lodge, and volunteering for a variety of other organizations, including the fire department. He is survived by his parents, son and daughter, two stepdaughters and extended family. His wife passed away in 2011.

Joseph “Joey” Pustejovsky, Jr., grew up in West, and was the West City Secretary in addition to working two other jobs, and volunteering with the fire department.

His entire family was in the video tribute, talking about his courage, how much they’d miss him, and his smile.

He and his wife married a year ago and each brought to the marriage children from previous marriages, but Joey never talked about them except to call them “our children,” said his wife, Kelly.

“His love went out to everyone,” said his mother, Carolyn Pustejovsky.

Kevin Williams Sanders, 33, was a teacher at McLennan Community College and a firefighter with the Bruceville-Eddy VFD and was in training to become an EMT. He loved Superman, going so far as to have a blue and red car, and naming his son Reeve, after the actor who portrayed his hero. He is survived by his wife, Sarah, and their three-month–old son, as well as an extended family.

Brothers and captains Doug and Bob Snokhous, ages 50 and 48, respectively, both served on the West VFD. Both men were married and fathers, and members of a large family.

“Nothing made him happier than to help others unless it was to tell the story about the fire or car wreck afterwards,” said Doug’s daughter, Lauren Snokhous. “Men like my father and the others are a special kind of man. Those who gave up their lives for others are the definition of heroes.”

William Ray “Buck” Utmor, Jr., 45, was involved in his community, played drums in a band, and was a rodeo rider. He is survived by his wife, two sons, daughter and parents.

“He was the friend who showed up to help before you asked,” according to the video tribute.

The last video of the presentation was that to Capt. Cyrus Adam Reed, whose tribute was read by Bryce Reed. Cyrus was one of the EMTs in training who responded to the fire at the plant.

“Cy lived for today,” Bryce said, describing Cy’s love for mischief, including shooting cans of aerosol cheese that would leave circles of orange goo in the lawn.

“Cy loved fire,” Bryce said. “Cy was a firefighter and he loved every minute of it.”

But after leaving the audience laughing at Cy’s antics, Bryce then challenged the audience, including President Barack Obama and Governor Rick Perry, to live life as Cy had.

“Dare to love,” he said. “Dare to be bold.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com