ROCKINGHAM — First responders, family and friends will gather on Tuesday to remember Joe Kester, a former Rockingham Rescue Squad lieutenant who died two years ago after suffering a heart attack in his yard.
Melissa Schoonover, the memorial event’s coordinator, said the rescue squad’s flag will fly at half-staff Monday to mark the second anniversary of Kester’s death. The memorial begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday and will include a candlelight ceremony, a tribute video showing scenes from Kester’s life, plaque dedication, flag dedication, food and numerous guest speakers.
Schoonover also said Braveheart EMS in Laurinburg will bring the truck Kester used to drive. It will be on display during the service.
Chief Scott Waters of the Rockingham Rescue Squad worked with Kester for more than five years and remembered him fondly — as not only a fellow volunteer rescue squad member, but also as a friend and mentor.
“I’ve known him a pretty good while,” Waters said. “Joe was a good guy. He wanted to help people. He was always supportive, and he was someone you can talk to and get feedback from as far as things to do for fundraising and the operation of the facility.”
All rescue squad members are volunteers, and although the group receives some funds from local government, fundraising is the squad’s major source of income and how Waters says they “stay alive.” One of their biggest and most popular fundraisers is the annual haunted house, which takes place during Halloween season. Waters said Kester was an integral part of that process.
“He was good at what he did as far as dressing up and putting on makeup for the haunted house,” said Waters. “He had a good sense of humor and was very creative in making different rooms in the haunted house on Battle Dairy Road in Hamlet. He was good for morale.”
The haunted house, however, is not all Kester was known for. Waters said there’s an old wooden bench that sits in front of the rescue squad, and anyone riding by would usually see Kester sitting on that bench under the canopy.
That same bench — as well as another one which will be placed by the flagpole — are in the process of being refurbished as a memorial for Kester. Waters added that a garden on the property has been dedicated in his honor as well.
“It’s a shock that we lost him. It was tough to do for one of our own, but we did all we could do. It was just tough,” Waters said. “Joe was good for getting advice, though. We miss him definitely, and he had a big old heart. He was a good person.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-997-3111, ext. 18.