Bob Davis worked his way up through the ranks of the Manteca Fire Department to become a well-loved and respected battalion chief.
His 29 years of service is being celebrated today from 2 until 4 p.m. in the city’s newest fire station located at Lathrop Road just west of Union Road.
Today’s the last day on the job for Chief Davis who has been working out of the headquarters station on Union Road at Highway 120. He signed on to the department in 1984 as a reserve, becoming a full-time firefighter in 1987 and served under a half dozen chiefs including Larry Drager, Ron Waddle, Charlie Rule, George Quaresma, Chris Haas and finally Kirk Waters.
The “hard working” Davis has become known as the chief with the father image who has a character that draws his men to him for mentoring when they find troubling challenges in their way at home and at work.
“I have conflicting emotions about his departure,” current Fire Chief Kirk Waters said. “On one hand I am super happy for Bob while on the other hand I am going to miss him so much. Bob was such a great leader in our department. He led by example, often rolling up his sleeves with our firefighters and working alongside them. You would see Bob up early every morning with the crews cleaning the satin and the rigs. He made it to every one of the community events we put on or support as a fire department.”
The chief went on to say Davis gave countless hours of his own time, off-duty making the department and the community better and had a major impact on the newest firefighters joining the Manteca Fire Department serving as a father figure helping them to become good fathers, husbands and overall good men.
“When I think about Bob Davis, I think of dedication, integrity, self-initiative and being a team player,” Chief Waters said.
Served in Navy
Davis served aboard the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Constellation during his four years of service as an aircraft deck handler for the F-14 Tomcat fighter planes. He was charged with moving them about the ship from 1977 to 1981.
His aircraft carrier traveled to such areas as Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Hawaii, and Korea.
“That’s one of the reasons I stay away from cruises,” Davis said with a chuckle. “(I was) afraid they might put me to work.”
Davis said he had a challenging childhood in a family of four children. Their parents split up when they were all living in a 13-foot travel trailer in South Dakota. There were two girls and two boys along with the youngest — a stepbrother who passed away at young age.
After being taken away from his alcoholic parents, he was taken to an orphanage in San Jose, adding that it was the first place he had ever lived that seemed like a real home.
Davis said he moved into a loving foster home where the mother figure would always have 10 to 12 kids around her trying to make the most positive home life she could for them all.
“I have long shared my story with my firefighters at the station,” he said to make them realize how fortunate they have been. His foster mother passed away several years ago at her Lathrop home.
Davis’ first job was at an Arco station pumping gas while still in high school. Then from the summer of 1970 until going into the Navy in 1977, he took a job at Honda Motorcycles on East Yosemite Avenue where he saw an ad in the newspaper for fire department reserves that piqued his interest and lead to his future career.
Started work on
2-man fire engines
Davis said he was hired with other career firefighters, David Breitenbucher, and Jacobson when they answered calls in fire engines staffed by only two men. They didn’t have headsets back then and had to shout at each other over the roar of the truck engines. All they had for comfort was one little fan, not the air conditioners of today, he added.
First assigned to the smallest station in town, Davis started out on Center Street next to Yosemite School He has now been a battalion chief for some seven years.
Some of the large blazes he has worked started with the two-story Shannon Hotel at the corner of Yosemite and Sycamore avenues where many were injured and one man lost his life. Others included the Roscoe Fire on North Main Street, the SunValley Meats fire on West Yosemite Avenue and several state strike teams fires in forests.
Those in the fire served who have gained his ultimate respect include Paul Cole formerly of the Lathrop Fire Department as they shared their training expertise. Cole is now a battalion chief with Cal-Fire Half Moon Bay. The other is Chief Kirk Waters in Manteca who Davis says is “the hardest working guy in the South County.”
Bob’s wife Sherri tells a unique story of how them met each other when she was just five. They parted ways and met again at a family reunion when he was 24 and she was 19. After just five days and a date to see a movie — Friday the 13th, Part 3 — and on the weekend before he left he asked her to marry him. She told him he would have to talk to her dad but they were still both asleep. He did talk to them and as soon as she graduated from high school in 1981 they were wed.
“I kinda knew about him all my life,” she added.
That family reunion had involved both their families.
“His father was my uncle and my father was his uncle after being adopted into the family,” she explained.
In the final analysis he works for his family, for his kids and the guys he works with, according to his wife. She added that on his wall is his motto for life, “Come to work, stay at work and do your work and be a person of integrity.”
She noted that when he became a battalion chief he chose to stay at the station with the guys on his shift rather than working an 8 to 5 day. He would say, “I want to stay at the station and stay on line with my guys.”
His wife added, “I know the Lord has played an important part. We believe God comes first and then your wife.”
The Davis couple has three children and six grandchildren. Their children are Travis, 29, Seth, 28, and Melissa 25.