- Associated Press - Saturday, April 26, 2014

MASSILLON, Ohio (AP) - The calls come at all hours. Often, it’s in the middle of the night - one, three, five in the morning, it doesn’t matter.

There’s not much that will keep Bill Whitmore from answering.

In his 68 years as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT), the 85-year-old Navarre man has rarely missed a call.

“I always think, ‘someone has to do it.’ You’re a volunteer, but you can’t say ‘I don’t feel like going today,’” he said. “If everybody felt that way, nobody would show up.”

Whitmore joined the Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Department right out of high school in 1946. In 1975, he transferred to the Navarre VFD, where he has served since.

He is among the oldest certified EMTs in Ohio - the Ohio Department of Public Safety couldn’t say for certain who the oldest is. Whitmore is in the process of renewing his certifications again - as he has every three years since 1946, coinciding with his birthday. Whitmore will be 86 in May.

China Dodley, public information officer with the state public safety office, was able to confirm that Whitmore has two active certifications - EMT-B and VFF) - but not that he is the oldest, because age is not part of the department’s regular reporting.

To maintain his certifications, Whitmore is required to log 40 hours of continuing education training, which he does through monthly classes at Mercy Medical Center and at his own fire department. He keeps his certificates handy in case of an audit, which would require him to produce them as proof.

Barring any complications, Whitmore will be certified as an EMT and volunteer firefighter through 2017, when he will be 89.

Like the 1933 Diamond T fire truck he sometimes likes to drive in parades, there are things that Whitmore won’t do anymore.

“You gotta double-clutch it, cause it’s got all straight gears. . You have a heck of a time driving it and getting it in gear,” Whitmore said about the truck, which the Navarre VFD acquired from the Massillon Fire Department in the 1950s. Massillon used it to put out grass fires.

Whitmore doesn’t drive when responding to calls anymore, can’t lift as much as he used to, and at the request of his family, stays off ladders.

“As you get older, you lose strength,” he said. “At my age, I can’t do a lot of lifting. . In the last year or so, I’ve started cutting back.”

He said he last went out on a call earlier this spring, before he had surgery to remove cancer from his colon. He expected to resume duties soon.

He said he’s never been seriously hurt on the job, though he tells a story about an emergency in the 1970s during which he herniated a disc in his back and hurt his hand.

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