Erica Montgomery, 26, died of a heart condition, said Mr. Montgomery, who was one of 43 Toledo Fire Department recruits sworn into the training academy Monday.
Seeing the firefighters and paramedics help his wife made him realize he wanted join them to help others.
“I think it's a very honorable thing to do,” he said, with his parents, Rebecca and Mark E. Montgomery, and his soon-to-be fiance, Erika Foster, at his side.
"It's something he's always wanted to do," Mrs. Montgomery said.
Mr. Montgomery, 34, of Gibsonburg, Ohio, was working as an account manager for Coca-Cola before being hired by the fire department.
The recruits – 39 men and four women; 38 white and five black – started their academy training Monday, though the first few days of the 22-week process will be a lot of paperwork and meetings with various people and organizations.
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The training is broken down into two parts – 13 weeks of firefighter training and nine more of EMT training, said Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld.
The 43 recruits will graduate in mid-March, joining the department that, as of Monday, had a strength of 475 people.
Family, friends, city leaders, and firefighters – both on and off duty – packed Toledo City Council chambers to beyond the 225-person maximum capacity limit, forcing dozens of people to stand along the walls to watch the swearing-in.
Fire Chief Luis Santiago told the men and women they must be “all in” in their new careers and that they were chosen to be “the cream of the crop” from a long list of candidates.
Mayor Mike Bell, a former Toledo fire chief and state fire marshal, told the recruits that firefighting is "one of the most honorable professions" and the Toledo Fire Department is "one of the finest fire organizations" in the country.
The recruits were also warned to get in the habit of never being late.
"When we're late, it costs someone their life," the mayor said.
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.