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East Lake fire commissioner dies at 67

EAST LAKE — Born four days apart, they both got CB radios for their birthdays.

That's how they met, on the radio. Then they eloped to Winchester, Va.

When he died Thursday, Chuck and Jacqueline Dedman had been married for more than 29 years. Both had been married before, and they had eight children between them.

"He was my hero," she said. "Always has been."

He was a fire commissioner for many years in East Lake, and his friends and colleagues say he was a dedicated community servant. He was 67.

• • •

He was born in Lexington, Ky., in 1941 to the late Owen and Dorothy Dedman.

After high school, Mr. Dedman joined the Marine Corps. He worked at the Department of Defense and the State Department in Lexington as a civilian while in the Marine reserves. Next, he did five stints in Vietnam as a civilian, working in communications. Then he went to work for the Federal Aviation Authority as an air traffic controller and later flew cargo planes.

In 1974, a faulty cargo plane door and thick fog led to a crash.

"When we got the call, they said he had probably hours to live," said Tim Dedman of Etters, Pa., Mr. Dedman's oldest child. "Then they said days or weeks. Then they said, 'He'll never walk again.' "

Mr. Dedman proved them wrong on all counts, but his health was never the same. He contracted hepatitis C from the blood transfusions and later developed bladder cancer, the two illnesses that eventually took his life, according to his son.

He is survived by four sons, three daughters, 17 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A fifth son, William Ellison Jr., died two years ago.

Despite his health problems, Mr. Dedman was determined to continue his involvement with groups such as the Masons, the Shriners and the East Lake Tarpon Special Fire Control District, Tim Dedman said.

"He was bound and determined to live life to the fullest," he said.

Mr. Dedman was a huge fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Rays, his son said. Even as he went in and out of consciousness, he asked how the Rays had done in a recent doubleheader.

"They never could win two in a row," Mr. Dedman said.

• • •

Mr. Dedman served as a fire commissioner starting in 1992, a position he held when he died.

He spearheaded an effort to get laptops on engines so that firefighters would have the latest technology, and he was instrumental in purchasing an all-terrain vehicle for fighting wildfires. He was one of three commissioners who voted not to renew the contract of former fire Chief Jeff Parks, who later left for a job in Pasco County.

"The new fire station, that was a dream of his, to get that up and running," said fire Chief Jeff Malzone. "And we did that before he died."

Several commissioners said they didn't always agree with Mr. Dedman but that he did his homework and respected the taxpayer's dollar.

Mr. Dedman was devoted to his family, the Fire Department, the community and Republican politics, said Flo Galloway, the fire commission chairwoman. And he was always a Southern gentleman.

"He was so very, very kind and so sensitive and sincere to everyone he met," she said.

Arrangements are being handled by Dobies Funeral Home in Tarpon Springs, (727) 942-0515.

A viewing and Masonic service will be from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Highest Praise Family Church, 1350 East Lake Road. Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at the same church, with burial later in Lexington, Ky.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

East Lake fire commissioner dies at 67 09/19/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 6:12pm]
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