Ponoka firefighter answers last call with celebration of life

Ponoka volunteer firefighter Bob Sorensen lived his final days as he had always done, with honour.

He lived his final years, weeks and days as he had always done — with honour, pride and integrity.

Bob Sorensen finally succumbed to his five year long battle with cancer on May 28 and a celebration of his life was held June 4, complete with a full traditional firefighter funeral.

Born Robert John Wayne on Aug. 30, 1956 in Edmonton, Bob would later be adopted following the marriage of Bob’s mother Betty to Knud Sorensen.

It wasn’t long after that, when Bob’s journey to Ponoka began as the family moved to Red Deer where he would meet Cindy in high school. The pair married in 1976 and it was a relationship built on balance.

“We were total opposites, but we both needed that for balance,” said Cindy.

“He was a perfectionist and was always helping others. I’m not sure why he became a firefighter, though it wasn’t a surprise and once you get that bug.”

From the list of exactly how things had to be placed and done in order when going camping to the immaculate garage — complete with a fence around his convertible and balls hanging on strings so the vehicles would be parked right where they were supposed to be — Bob had a standard for everything — High.

“Even in his final couple weeks as he was sick, I wasn’t following his list at the campground and he was complaining I was back tracking,” Cindy explained with loving reflection and a laugh.

“I needed to get his oxygen set up so I told him, ‘I can’t have you not breathing.’”

Bob also carried that personality into his work as a journeyman plumber, starting in 1987 in Red Deer before getting a job at then Alberta Hospital in Ponoka, and in his life as a volunteer firefighter after joining the Ponoka Fire Department in 1993.

“He got one evaluation at the hospital that criticized his standards as too high and unreachable by anyone, so he filed a grievance because he felt he shouldn’t have to lower his standards,” she said.

“And it was the same at the fire hall, because the fire was over three hours ago and he still wasn’t home because the hoses and trucks and everything had to be clean and in order. Bob was pretty much black and white with no real grey areas.

“It was the way he always was — there was a right way, a wrong way and Bob’s way.”

Along with his love for camping, Bob was into sports such as volleyball, basketball, bowling, slo-pitch, horseshoes, curling and floor hockey. He also helped coach his son Craig in baseball and hockey, even though Craig noted that his dad could skate, but not stop. Bob also helped out with score keeping for the local Junior B Stampeders for more than two decades.

“He was very competitive and also really loved cribbage, to the point where no one wanted to play against him because he would kick their butts,” Cindy added.

Bob’s community involvement didn’t end with the fire department, where he spent 21 years and rose to the rank of Captain. He was also part of the Ponoka Citizens Patrol and a contributing member of the Gold Wing Touring Association, plus a great supporter of the local motorcycle community.

And as was his nature, all of these people became part of Bob’s family of friends, who would repay the love and support back after his cancer struck.

However, it was his family — consisting of Cindy, son Craig, daughter Chrissy and all of the grand-children — that he really enjoyed and brought out his fun, joking side.

“He was always there for me,” said Craig fondly. “We would play mini sticks in the basement, especially at playoff time, and it wasn’t until I got older and had kids of my own that I realized how lazy he was when we played. He would sit on the couch, his net, and face the television and my net was at the opposite end where I couldn’t watch the game.”

However, Bob’s nature also taught Craig an important life lesson.

“He still wanted to win and I learned to be a good loser. He also wouldn’t let me win, I had to work for it and then after he would say, ‘Good game,’” he said.

It was the same when Craig would ask dad for some help doing something he didn’t know how to do.

“He would bring his tools since I didn’t have them and then give me trouble for not having the proper tools. So I’d say ‘I don’t need them since you bring yours anyway,’” Craig joked.

“Even a couple months ago, my shower was leaking and I think we both pulled it apart three times. He was sitting in there, not really able to do it, and looks back at me telling me I should be in there doing it.”

Craig added that was always the way he learned from his dad.

When his cancer arrived, Cindy explained it was difficult especially since doctors gave Bob just six months. However, he lasted five years, in part to his stubbornness, and fought it all right to the end.

Bob kept life as always though — taking trips with the family, maintaining his relationship with the fire department by showing up at practice and participating in the ball hockey ‘BS to Cancer’ fundraisers that were held on his behalf.

“He just enjoyed life as ever, worrying about others, but being anonymous and not taking credit for stuff,” Cindy said.

And he left just like he lived — ‘Thanks so much, I’m just going to go now.’