Remembering a Toledo Hero

It was 41 years ago this month that Toledo fireman Ralph Arthur and his family ventured out onto the ice of Maumee Bay at Cullen Park near Point Place for an afternoon of fun on their snowmobiles. Arthur, a 19 year veteran of the Toledo Fire Department had just gotten a new snowmobile and was trying it out.  According to his daughter Pamela, her father and mother were on the shore while his two teenage children, Patricia and Buck, were out on the snowmobile. All was going well on that cold snowy Saturday afternoon until the children’s snowmobile suddenly vanished, breaking through the ice and slipping into the frigid waters of Maumee Bay near an earthen dike.  The 43 year old Arthur, rushed to the breach in the ice and selflessly dove in to save his kids. He was able to pull his 16-year old daughter Patricia out of the water and get her up onto the ice. He then submerged again and found his 19-year old son Buck and was holding him up when other firemen and bystanders arrived and pulled him to safety.  The children were taken to Riverside hospital for treatment of exposure.  It was estimated they and their father were in the icy water 15-20 minutes before they were rescued. While the children recovered from the exposure, their father, fireman Arthur did not. He died of a heart attack at Riverside Hospital a short time later after being taken there suffering from the intense exposure.

It was a tragic story of selfless heroism that merited front page coverage in the Toledo Blade the next day.  A Toledo Fireman who gave his life to save the lives of his two children in what could have easily been a far deeper tragedy.  One of the reasons, I wanted to remind readers of this story is due to the strange fact that it really got so little notice at the time at happened. While it did garner a front page story the next day on January 10th, 1971, in my research I could find no follow up story. Not even a simple paragraph about his funeral, or plans to recognize his heroism. A short obituary was all I could find in the days following.  Perhaps the lack of coverage speaks to a different time in 1971, or a different sensibility we had about life and how we measured what was or wasn’t newsworthy.  A time when it appears the tragic loss of a public servant in the line of duty, did not command the public attention and headlines that it does today.

It is also noted that even Fireman Arthur’s heroics were overlooked by the Toledo Fire Department for over 20 years. Because he was off-duty at the time of the rescue, his name was never included on the official Toledo Fireman’s memorial in downtown Toledo.  It wasn’t until 1992, when his 10-year old grandson, Dustin(Buck’s son) asked Toledo officials why his grandfather’s name wasn’t on the memorial.  That question prompted other firemen to also ask why and by June 11 of 1992, at the annual memorial service to honor those Toledo firefighters who died in the line of duty, Ralph Arthur’s name was finally added.   A gesture that brought comfort to the Arthur family and public validation of Arthur’s selfless act of courage.  We are so lucky to have people like Ralph Arthur who walk among us.




Filed under Lake Erie, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Remembering a Toledo Hero

  1. Chad Arthur

    MR. Herbert,
    Thanks you so much for posting this!!!! I actually met you a couple of years ago, I was in Dr. Bradshaw’s class and you came to speak to us! I was the one who remembered your days at Channel 11 when you used to do the Noon show, anchoring of course!

    How did you remember this? Did you find the article about my little brother from 1992 or did you talk to someone at the Toledo Firefighter museum! Thanks again!

    • Thanks Chad.

      I came across the story while doing research on a Toledo history book I am writing. I’m interested to know if your brother ever became a firefighter?

  2. Chad Arthur

    No he did not. However, he served 4yrs in the Marines. He did tours in Iraq in 2005 and 2007. Dustin would still like to become a firefighter, so its not totally out of the cards yet. My middle brother Mike, is a Captain in the Marine Corps. He is stationed 29Palms, California.

    It should also be noted that my mothers father-my grandfather-was a Toledo Police Officer. So both of my brothers got their sense of duty from both grandfathers.

    If you need help with anything on my Grandpa Arthur, please let me know. I can put you in touch with my dad!

  3. Laura Arthur

    Thank you for writing this. Ralph was my great uncle. I first learned about him on a class trip to the firefighter’s museum in first grade. It was about a year after that when he was added to the memorial and I was very touched when I was able to see it in person.

  4. Dody Hamilton

    Thanks for sharing this article. A great article. Ralph was a hero. So was Leona. An entire family had their lives change that day. Leona continued to raise her family with grace, dignity, and humor. I do know that she would be so proud of them today.

  5. Pamela Arthur

    What a wonderful tribute to my father. I have repeated that story over the years and am amazed at how many people actually do remember it. I have spent the rest of my life honoring this man. But, there is one aspect to this story I’d like to officially correct; my parents were not out on the ice, they were on shore with me and my brother Randy. When the first one was gone too long, my Dad headed out to see what was going on out there.

    Again, thank you for this fine tribute to my father. I will miss him forever.

    Pamela S. Arthur

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