Bob Baeschlin, Father of Kentland, Passes Away
Founder, Charter Member, Past Chief and Past President Bob Baeschlin passed away August 12 at 10:00 AM in Hospice care in Margate, Florida. Bob was one of the first residents of the then rural town of Kentland in the early 1950’s. Having served as a volunteer firefighter for Cottage City and Colmar Manor, his boyhood home, he immediately recognized the need for fire protection in the community, starting a volunteer fire department for Kentland. Working with a few other concerned citizens, he raised some money (including some out of his own pocket) and purchased a used pumper. The first Kentland “station” was a parking space in front of Bob’s house. When the company got a run Bob would crank up the siren to alert the men. Ever since that day Kentland has followed his simple saying “Always do whatever is necessary to get a fire truck, with firemen ready to do a job, to the fire.” He then set about expanding membership, obtaining equipment, and eventually built Kentland’s first real fire station after taking out a second mortgage on his own home. All this time he served as Chief, training a group of men with virtually no experience into a capable firefighting unit. Within a few years Bob, had almost personally created a vital public service organization through hard work, intelligence, innovation, and a lot of guts.
In Prince George’s County, each new fire department gets the proceeding number from the last established department. As it was being founded, Kentland was in line to be Company 32. However, Bob fought for the #33 for the department and it was taken in front of the Volunteer Firemen’s council. Number 33 was the number of Bob’s favorite football player Sammy Baugh who played for the Washington Redskins (the team coincidentally now playing in Landover, down the street from today’s firehouse). The number 33 was awarded to Kentland as long as we waited to join the Association until after the next organization.
Of course, Kentland and its surrounding area was not destined to remain a small rural town. And Bob was not about to rest on his accomplishments or fail to meet the new challenges. Facing the challenges of the 1960’s, Bob led the department in building our current Engine House on Landover Road, dedicated to him in 2001. He also arranged for the purchase of modern, high quality apparatus. One example was our 1963 Seagrave Eagle, the first aerial platform truck of its type in the United States. This was in keeping with Bob’s innovative approach and constant drive for professionalism and improvement. The 1970’s provided new challenges for Kentland and Bob Baeschlin. When the Kettering-Largo area began to develop rapidly, Bob led the fight to open Kentland’s second station, Company 46.
After over 20 years as Chief and driving force, Bob gave up his leadership role in the mid-1970’s to the younger members he had trained, and in many cases practically raised. But when the company again needed his help, Bob answered the call. He returned in 1977 to run the County Convention and serve for several years as President. As President, Bob managed a successful effort to purchase Kentland’s first new pumpers in 12 years. In Bob’s second era as the key member of Kentland his enthusiasm, initiative, and drive were still in place. And in a time when so many people fled our county, Bob has remained a loyal resident and spokesman for everything that is good about Prince George’s County.
Bob Baechlin’s entire life has been dedicated to the people of Prince George’s County and the United States. A true all-American boy, Bob played baseball for the Police Boy’s Club Team in the 1930’s. He was 20 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, so he joined the Marine Corps and fought at several engagements in the Pacific Theater. During the battle for Guadalcanal, Bob’s unit was ambushed, he was shot and some of his hearing was damaged; for these combat wounds he received the purple heart. During that firefight Bob allowed another Marine to rest their B.A.R., a light machine gun, on his shoulder to better sight in on the advancing enemy, resulting in permanent hearing loss. Bob was one of only six Marines out of a 42 man platoon that survived that ambush.
After the war, Bob joined the newly formed Prince George’s County Police Department in 1952. He wore a hearing aid his entire career and always had a slight limp. Another former Marine and police officer Phil Kearns helped Bob get hired, even with his medical injuries that he received in combat. Bob rose through the ranks to Detective Sergeant when he retired in 1974. He actually made Sergeant twice, after getting busted in rank for telling a high ranking official what they could kiss, but got his rank back later under a new chief. Bob was remembered by Former Prince George’s County Police Chief Mike Flaherty as “an old grumpy, cigar chewing, former WWII Marine that cussed like there was no tomorrow. He was the best Street Detective I have ever known.” Bob was a Charter Member of the Fraternal Order of Police organization and was the oldest police retiree, just 4 months from his 99th birthday, November 11.
Funeral Arrangements to follow over the next few days.
Condolences may be sent to his daughter:
6434 Coral Lake Drive
Margate, Florida 33063