March 1954 – January 2010
Veteran Skagway EMT Robert Ivan Dill died January 16, 2010 in the University Place, Wash. Hospice Center after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 55. Members of the Wick family, along with hospice workers, cared for him during his final days.
Dill was born on March 19, 1954 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He moved to Skagway in the late 1980s and joined the Skagway Fire Department in 1990. He was the department’s volunteer of the year in 1990-91.
He became an EMT in 1992 and rose to an EMT 3 in 1994, when he became the squad’s lieutenant. He was promoted to captain in 1996 and held that position until 2001.
His volunteer work on the squad earned him the Helen B. Clark Award for Skagway Community Service in 1999.
Dill was also employed by the fire department from 1992 to 2007, but in their nomination letter for the award, John and Barb Brodersen stressed that Dill was a volunteer on all EMS calls, from which he received no compensation.
“If the emergency requires a medevac to Juneau or Whitehorse, in any kind of weather, Bob will be in that ambulance or on that aircraft carefully monitoring the patient,” they wrote. “He literally has the life of that person in his hands, and it is about time we, as a community, recognized Bob and his life-saving volunteer expertise.”
On the night the award was announced, Dill was on a medevac call, so it was presented to him later at a fire department meeting.
Through his job at the fire department, he was the support technician and building official at a time when Skagway was transitioning toward a modern department for a city with stricter building codes. He processed hundreds of building permits and was there to oversee the implementation of sprinklers and early warning systems in the downtown core.
Acting Fire Chief Wayne Greenstreet said Dill held a number of certificates from the National Fire Academy, National Search and Rescue School, International Conference of Building Officials, and International Code Council. He was certified as a Firefighter I in 2002, and also became the president of the Skagway chapter of the Alaska Firefighters Association.
“I got along with Bob great,” Greenstreet said. “He had an interesting personality that sometimes rubbed people the wrong way, but his personality was well-suited for the time it was… from people having fire and life safety the way they wanted it to following codes and standards. He had the personality to do it and he was the guy we needed.”
Greenstreet said Dill wore his “TFA” title patch proudly on his uniform. Officially it stood for “Totally Friendly Administrator,” but you can fill in the blanks.
Dill came to Skagway with a lot of mechanical knowledge. Greenstreet said he remembered Dill completely re-plumbing an entire fire truck after it was damaged. After his firefighting career ended, Dill did other maintenance around town, and was the go-to guy at the Eagles, where he was a Past Worthy President.
Although never having a family of his own, Dill loved children, and this side of him was not often seen. He spent many Christmases with Tom and Tammy Cochran and their children, and Barb Brodersen remembers seeing their kids piling on top of him to hear him read stories.
This love for kids prompted him, as emcee of the Eagles Christmas Eve Program one year, to dress up as the Grinch. Many said he was a natural, better suited for the role than Jim Carrey.
He also looked after people, periodically showing up at the Brodersens, for example, to see if they were OK. “The last thing I said to him was ‘thanks for checking on us,’” Brodersen said. “That’s a side of Bob Dill the public does not know.”
After his fire service, Dill joined the Planning and Zoning Commission, and he attended meetings until becoming ill last fall. When he arrived in Seattle with his medical issues in December, Dill was taken in by the Wick family.
“We were as close to family as he had,” said long-time friend Chris Wick, formerly of Skagway, who cared for Dill with his wife Judy and parents Jim and Lois. Mick and Alice Schlick also came up from Nevada.
True to form, Bob was telling the hospital staff what to do, Wick said. In the end, Bob was aware of “a bigger calling” as the University Place Hospice Center kept him as comfortable as they could, Wick said. They printed off a number of e-mails and Facebook posts and read them to Bob. “He would grunt and kind of giggle, knowing a lot of people were thinking about him.”
A fund for Dill’s medical and estate expenses has been set up at the Eagles, where a raffle is being held on Super Bowl Sunday. The Wicks will be coming to town for a memorial service to be held at the Eagles Hall at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17, followed by a wake in the social room. – Compiled by Jeff Brady
PHOTOS: Bob Dill with Chris and Judy Wick’s grandson, Mason, and as the Grinch during the 2001 Christmas Eve Program at the Eagles.