ODOT Worker Killed In Accident Mourned By Volunteer Firefighter Buddies

Friday, June 12th 2015, 6:20 pm
By: Tess Maune

The tragic death of an Oklahoma Department of Transportation worker and retired volunteer firefighter has left his community without a quiet leader.

Jerald Warden died on Thursday, while working along U.S. Highway 412.

Troopers said Warden was near Westport when a bungee cord broke on the truck, causing a stop sign to fall and hit Warden in the neck.

His close friends said Warden was fearless leader whose passion was serving others.

6/12/2015 Related Story: ODOT Employee Killed In Pawnee County Work-Related Accident

Folks around Pawnee County all seemed to know, or at least know of, Warden. He was a man of few words, his friends say, but he was faithful to his community and the fire department he served for almost half his life.

“He was a good friend. Good friend. I'll miss him,” former volunteer firefighter and ODOT supervisor Dennis Walker said.

With mourning bands wrapped their badges, a few of Warden's firefighting buddies are swapping stories of a friend they'll never forget.

“Just to show respect to him, that's why [the mourning band] is there,” Maramec Fire Chief Allen Fulton said. “Jerald was just a great guy.”

Warden was a Maramec volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years.

“You could call on him any time and he would hang with you until the job was done,” Walker said.

"Whenever that fire alarm went off, when those pagers went off, Jerald lived less than a mile from here and he was the first one at this station every time," Fulton said. "When I would come pulling in, he'd have a truck out and be ready to go."

Warden served as chief for about five years -- not the type who barked orders, though. He was the kind who led by example.

“Jerald would not ask you to do anything,” Fulton said. “Jerald would get up and show you how to do it and you went with him; he was right by your side.”

Being a volunteer means he had a normal 9-5 job. He'd been working for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for almost 10 years, a job Walker, one of his former fire chiefs, helped him get.

“We did a lot of snow storms together and lot of tragedies along the highway together,” Walker said. “I guess we'd both been in public service all our life.”

Hard work was Warden's way of life, Walker says. And it was a life his friends say ended far too soon on the side of Highway 412 on Thursday.

“It was very hard to accept that yesterday,” Walker said as he began to cry. “He's in a better place. The good Lord's got a good man.”

A good man -- who most will remember for what he didn't say.

“He was very quiet,” Fulton said.

He was real laid back, real quiet,” Pawnee Fire Chief James Novotny said.

“Literally quiet. Jerald had very little to say. When he did say something, he'd say it very quietly,” Walker said.

So Warden never had much to say, but maybe that's because his actions always spoke louder than words.

“He was happy,” Walker said. “He was a good dad and loved his family and loved his community.”

Funeral services for Warden are set for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Pawnee's First Baptist Church.