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Son: Firefighter/EMT Kohler taught his family about community service

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

The thousands of hours of service Robert Kohler Sr. gave to his community inspired others in his family to do the same, according to one of his three adult children.

"I am the person I am today because of him," said Assistant Fire Chief Bobby Kohler of Mount Wolf's Eagle Fire Co.

Kohler, 58, of East Manchester Township, died on Christmas Day after suffering a heart-related event on the job Christmas Day at the Northeastern Area EMS building, 10 Devco Drive in the township, according to York County Coroner Pam Gay.

His family, friends and fellow first-responders will honor his memory starting with a viewing on Thursday, Jan. 3. (See below for details.)

A procession of fire and emergency equipment carried the body of Robert Kohler Sr. from York Hospital to a Manchester-area funeral home.

His namesake son said he, his brother and sister all considered their dad their hero growing up and still do.

"When he joined the (fire/rescue) service in 1989, I was 6 years old," the assistant fire chief recalled. "That's the life we knew — to help the community."

Bobby Kohler's teenage son, Cameron Kohler, joined Eagle Fire Co. in September after turning 14, his dad said.

"My son's a third-generation firefighter," he said.

Watched from sidelines: The assistant chief said he and his siblings were proud of their father's community service.

"We used to ride to calls with him and sit in the vehicle and watch him in action," Bobby Kohler recalled. "We wanted to follow Dad."

After Kohler Sr.'s sons became adults, they no longer had to merely sit back and watch. Bobby Kohler's brother, Eric Sweitzer, is a lieutenant with York Haven's Susquehanna Fire Co. No. 1.

More:Longtime Northeastern-area EMT, firefighter dies on the job Christmas Day

"I've been involved in the fire service for 21 years, and I was able to work under my dad for quite a few of them," Bobby Kohler said. "I ran many calls with him, fought many fires with him."

The elder Kohler offered his children solid advice and support, according to his son.

"When I became an assistant chief at York Haven, he was very proud and told me to cherish the moment and to do what I thought was right," Bobby Kohler said, adding he followed that advice.

About Kohler Sr.: Born and raised in York County, the elder Kohler graduated from Northeastern High School in 1978 and lived in the Manchester area.

In addition to his three children, he had two grandchildren who also adored him, according to Bobby Kohler.

Mount Wolf's Eagle Fire Co. shared this photo from their firehouse honoring Robert Kohler Sr. The fire station's Facebook post states that Kohler's legacy will live on forever in the hearts of his fellow first-responders.

Those in the Manchester/Mount Wolf community who called for an ambulance knew that if Robert Kohler Sr. was on duty, "they were getting a kind, caring, loving man," Bobby Kohler said. "He just enjoyed being able to help people."

The elder Kohler started working as soon as he graduated from high school.

"From the time he graduated until the time he passed away, he only missed one day of work," his namesake son said, and confirmed his father went to work whether sick or well:

"He knew he had a job to do, so he would go."

Three generations of Kohler family members, all in York County's fire/EMT service. From right: Robert Kohler Sr.; his son, Eagle Fire Co. Assistant Chief Bobby Kohler; and Bobby's son, Cameron Kohler, who joined the fire service on his 14th birthday, his father said.

'Our thing': One of the ways the elder Kohler relaxed and enjoyed free time was by going hunting with his family.

"That's what we did every year — we went to our place in the mountains and we all hunted together," Bobby Kohler said. "Whatever was in season.

"That was our thing."

The hunting party included grandson Cameron, who bears quite a resemblance to his grandfather.

Service information: Kohler Sr.'s funeral service will begin at noon Friday, Jan. 4, at Diehl Funeral Home, 87 S. Main St. in Mount Wolf.

Viewings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3, and from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Jan. 4, both at the funeral home, according to Northeastern Area EMS.

Burial will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, P.O. Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, MD 21727, or to the Northeastern Area EMS, 10 Devco Drive, Manchester, PA 17345.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.