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Published: Sunday, 6/3/2007

Dispatcher drew maps for Hudson Fire Department

HUDSON, Mich. - Elmer L. Roan, 83, a dispatcher for the Hudson Fire Department who drew detailed maps of the area for the radio room, died Thursday in his Hudson home of complications of lung cancer and pneumonia.

Mr. Roan was a lifelong resident of the Hudson area and remained in the North Market Street home that he grew up in.

Knowing the area like the back of his hand, it was a perfect fit when Mr. Roan began working for the Hudson fire and EMS department 22 years ago as a dispatcher, his daughter Susan Marry said.

"It was his life," she said. "They all respected him and treated him as family."

Mr. Roan began dispatching after he retired from Kewaunee Manufacturing in Adrian, Mich., where he worked for 34 years.

Mr. Roan had a heart attack and was unable to return to work painting office furniture at the plant, Ms. Marry said.

Afterward he spent a lot of time at the fire department, a few doors down from his home, with his son Lurly Roan, who was an emergency medical technician for more than 25 years. Lurly Roan died in 2002.

The department figured if he was going to hang around, they would make good use of him and made him a dispatcher, Ms. Marry said.

"It gave him a reason to live and go on and continue, and to be part of what was important in this world and this community," Ms. Marry said.

"I really do, still to this day, believe we would have lost him years and years ago if he didn't take over with the fire department," she said.

Mr. Roan went above and beyond the duties of a dispatcher and often ran to the station to be the first there when the department had a call, Hudson Fire Chief Terry Camp said.

"He was very good, very detailed. When you came back from a run, Elmer had the report done for you," the chief said.

"He took a lot of pride in it. He took the radio dispatching just as important as we do our fire fighting."

For the radio room, Mr. Roan drew detailed maps of the city of Hudson and all the surrounding townships that the station covers.

These maps, which he drew freehand on window blinds, include all roads, lakes, addresses of homes and buildings, and locations of fire hydrants.

They are used every day, Chief Camp said.

Officials with neighboring municipalities, including Addison and Morenci, saw the maps and commissioned Mr. Roan to make some for them as well, Chief Camp said.

Known as the grandpa of the department, Mr. Roan often regaled the firefighters and the EMTs, who have an average age of 29, with stories of what Hudson was like in the 1940s and of his time in World War II, Chief Camp said.

Mr. Roan served three years with the U.S. Army overseas in France and England, running communications cable for the different companies. He served 10 additional years in the Army Reserve.

Mr. Roan was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed archery, hunting, and fishing.

He participated in archery competitions and made a concerted - and eventually successful - effort to bowl a perfect 300 game, Ms. Marry said.

"Whenever my father did anything, he didn't just do it half. He had to be the best," she said.

Mr. Roan married his first love, Idris Borton, on July 20, 1943. She was the only person who called him "Larry" - she favored Lawrence as the name under which Mr. Roan was confirmed, Ms. Marry said, while she associated his given name with the bumbling cartoon character Elmer Fudd.

Surviving are Mr. Roan's wife, Idris; son, Gary Roan; daughters, Susan Marry and Tina Snider, 15 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 1 p.m. today with a prayer service at 3 p.m. in Eagle Funeral Home, Hudson.

A Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Hudson, of which he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the Hudson fire and EMS department, Hospice of Lenawee, or the Father H. Paul Ruddy Education Endowment Fund.



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