CHANCELLOR, S.D. (KELO) – Many people in the Chancellor, South Dakota area are mourning the loss of their fire chief. 52-year-old Jeb Ford died in a car crash Sunday on Highway 44 after hitting a deer and going into a ditch.
Jeb Ford had a passion for fighting fires and helping others.
He began his life’s work as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Lemmon, South Dakota. Loving it so much, Ford went full-time in Sioux Falls, where he retired after 20 plus years. Not wanting to give it up just yet, he made his way to the Chancellor Volunteer Fire Department, where he eventually become Chief.
“His relationship with the crew down here is his relationship with, I think, everybody that knows Jeb,” Grant Van Riesen, Chancellor Fire Captain, said. “Always joking around, having a great time, loved just to talk to people, sit down, chat.”
“He kind of, I guess, built that fire department up from a small one to a better one in the area,” Ron Ford, Jeb’s father, said.
But firefighting wasn’t all Ford did.
“He loved that, loved being a dad, probably the proudest to be the wonderful father he was. And then fire department and the Guards,” Kristi Cox, Jeb’s sister, said.
Very involved, active father. Very proud of Cassie. That is his proudest accomplishment, I know.Kristi Cox
“He liked little kids, he loved playing Santa Claus at Christmastime,” Ron Ford said.
“He was always the Santa,” Cox said.
“He loved it,” Ron Ford said.
Ron Ford says his son was a fun-loving kid growing up.
I’m a veterinarian and he was raised up helping me from the time he was old enough to chase a cow down the alley at the sale barn.Ron Ford
The memory of the Fire Chief and retired firefighter lives on through the lives he touched and saved along the way.
“He always just, I think, wanted to know people, get to know people and help people,” Van Riesen said.
“He will be missed,” Cox said.
“And he will be remembered. So that helps some, you know. I mean, it’s nice that they’re not going to forget him,” Ron Ford said.
A visitation is planned for Jeb on February 17th at the Evanson Jensen Funeral Home in Lemmon from 1-5 p.m. The funeral is the following day at the Calvary Lutheran Church at 1 p.m. with burial to follow at Rosebud Cemetery.
The family says they plan to have a celebration of life for Jeb in Sioux Falls, but the details are yet to be determined.