Thank You Robert J. Barraclough, My Hero And ‘Star Achiever’

I have lost my dear best friend and feel so sad; yet I realized that I really did not lose him. Bob Barraclough and my father are right here and will continue to be right here, guiding me for the rest of my life.

In our last months together, we both knew it was time to “move over” and let the young folks lead the troops (as he would say). Through my life, Bob “stood taller” than others in our industry. He was the “go-to man” for guidance, leadership, free personal advice (good or bad), always with an “open hand, mind and ear,” just for you.

Betts and Bob were a great team; Betts is the sweetest, most caring and supportive wife a man could ask for. Bob was a lucky fellow finding that lovely lady!

Bob’s mentors were the “class” of the fire service – from the likes of Bill Foley, Alan Brunacini, Dennis Compton, Bruce Varner, Mac McMillan, Ronnie Coleman and Bill Peterson to the younger leaders like Chris Hecht and Don Frazeur. Why were they so important? As a firefighter from Pennsylvania and the U.S. Navy, Bob knew that we had to sincerely listen to brother firefighters on their particular hazards and needs.

Corporate America sometimes avoided him, but ended up getting his advice and most of the time getting information they really did want to hear. He made the little guys and companies feel important and guided them to higher levels.

Bob was the “front door” at Hale pump; I called him the single-stage pump pioneer. With the help of Al Morganelli, he put E-ONE’s Hush pumper on the map. (He and Al Morganelli also teamed to convince FDSOA officials to start the annual apparatus symposium.) Span Instruments grew under Bob’s leadership. And as a consultant for Rosenbauer, he assisted that company to a #2 position in the industry in just a few years. Bob’s safety theme idea was the core of Rosenbauer’s Tech Drive vehicles.

Building a better and safer fire truck was Bob’s passion, despite pressure from the “big guys.” His impact on NFPA 1901 spanned decades and will continue do so for many years to come. Four-door cabs, safer aerials, lighting, striping, hose beds, safety belts, innovations, pump panels, Annex D. The list goes on.

The Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) grew during Bob’s tenure; his desire was to bring people together in the industry, and no other person did such a good job in this endeavor. FAMA presented the “Star Achiever” award to many presidents, but none could top Bob’s personal achievements and dedication to the fire industry!

If you could only have heard and seen just a few of the calls and e-mails, I received in the last 24 hours. It truly exemplifies how Bob helped and touched so many people. I learned so much from Bob when I was the “new kid” trying to grow a very small company.

Many of us gladly accepted his challenge to join associations, build relationships and make friends. Just look at what we accomplished: North America and the NFPA now have the safest and most respected firefighting equipment and apparatus standards in the world.

What a team Bob and I were! Monthly we traveled, speaking on safety, NFPA and new innovations from around the world. Our Interschutz trips were the highlight every five years; we learned so much and returned with hundreds of ideas that now are standard on our apparatus. Slowly, we see a few of his ideas evolving in North America – for smaller pumper initial attack vehicles, rear-mount pumpers, no outlets and inlets on pump panels, smaller aerials and foam systems.

Everyone looked forward to Bob’s articles in Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine; between the late Publisher Peter Jorgensen (The “Pirate”) and Bob, we would get the “straight and honest shot” on the industry’s health and the “real people” making things happen.

Personally, I liked being a “side kick and back-up” with Bob; we talked almost every day on problems, events, people and changes in our industry. Our phones rang daily for free help on almost every subject – from a safety question to NFPA compliance to recruiting a new employee or acquisition of a company.

Robert J. Barraclough was my hero! Many of us will keep asking, “What would Bob say or recommend?” My “Star Achiever” still is close by. Let’s all continue fulfilling his dreams of bringing friends, relationships and companies closer together, plus building a safer fire truck.

A parting simple statement: “Thank you God for allowing me to be a small part of Robert Barraclough’s life.”

Editor’s Note: Alan Saulsbury is the president and owner of Fire Apparatus Consulting Services, LLC of Homer, N.Y., and the former owner of Saulsbury Fire Apparatus.

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