Dru Rhodes, 39, died in June after an off-duty car crash in Monroe County.
NORTH CANTON In June, the city's Fire and EMS Department lost one of its own.
Dru Rhodes was a full-time firefighter, paramedic, inspector and investigator with the department. He also was a part-time North Canton police officer. He died June 25 in an off-duty car crash in Monroe County at age 39.
On Monday, North Canton presented the department with a gift: a framed photo of a rainbow over the city's fire station, taken the day after Rhodes' death.
"We know it can be a tough, tough job. Very few understand what you all go through," Mayor David J. Held said in presenting the photo to the department Monday before a training session at Station 7.
The photo is a reminder that "when you have difficult days," to focus on the next call, he said.
"We're here to encourage you, to let you know to never, never, never underestimate the impact you have on the community," Held said. "Because it's great and the people let us know that."
The day after Rhodes' death, North Canton swore-in its new Police Chief John Minock. The city's police, fire and EMS departments attended the ceremony, many with black bars on their badges.
The evening was a mix of sadness and excitement, Held said.
Cathie Farina, a city administrative assistant, was struck by that dichotomy.
When she left City Hall after the ceremony, it was raining, with dark clouds on one side of the sky and sunshine on the other. And as she drove home behind a city fire truck, she saw a rainbow stretched across the fire station.
Farina snapped a few photos and emailed them to Fire Chief John Bacon.
"I have always heard that a rainbow is God’s promise to us that even through a storm everything will be OK. I felt like that rainbow last night was Dru saying that everything will be OK," Farina wrote to Bacon.
"That rainbow was only up there for a short amount of time. I am so glad I pulled over and captured it with my phone," Farina wrote in an email to a reporter Monday. The rainbow was not a coincidence. It was meant to be seen by all of Rhodes' friends and colleagues leaving City Hall that night, she wrote.
The department hung laminated copies of the photo at two stations.
Director of Administrative Services Patrick DeOrio saw the photos and knew the department deserved more than a photocopy.
"It means too much to just have it taped to the wall," he said.
DeOrio helped take up a collection from city employees. They used the money to have the photo professionally printed, mounted and framed.
A copy also will hang in City Hall. A North Canton firefighter framed a copy to present to Rhodes' mother, DeOrio said.
"For the city to present something like this, it's awesome," Bacon said.
Rhodes' death hit everyone hard, he said. Everyone loved him. He was involved with his colleagues both inside and outside of work, often inviting the department to hang out at his property and volunteering to help others with projects.
"It wasn't just somebody you work with. It's somebody you spend 24 hours a day with," Bacon said.
"It's almost like a family member," he said.
The department has been solemn this summer, though things are starting to look up, he said.
They still refer to "Dru's house" and "Dru's locker," even though he's no longer there.
Rhodes wouldn't want the department to sit in mourning, Bacon said.
We'll often say things like: "'If Dru was here ...' He'd say, 'Knock it off and get back to work,'" the chief said.
"There's 17,000 residents out there saying, 'Hey, they still need you.'"
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