EAST MANATEE - Bobby Maddox, founder of the Myakka City Fire Department, died from cancer Wednesday at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. He was 68
He helped start the fire department in 1980 with two trucks, a couple of volunteers, and a pole barn with a dirt floor. He led the department for 18 years.
When he retired in 1998, he was the longest serving fire chief in Manatee County.
In the beginning, he would put down his tools at his small woodworking business to respond to the latest emergency.
“He was an amazing person,” said current fire chief Danny Cacchiotti.
It was a view widely shared in Myakka.
“Mr. Bobby, as those of us in Myakka City called him, was a fine man, and respected by everyone in this town. I knew Mr. Bobby for 25 years. I can’t tell you how sorely he will be missed by myself and everyone else,” said Dawn Graf, an office assistant at the fire department.
Cameron Dakin, owner of Dakin Dairy who served as a Myakka fire commissioner and eventually became Mr. Maddox’s brother-in-law, knew him well.
“He was a kind, clean-living man of God,” Dakin said.
Royce Maddox said his father didn’t have a high school education, but got a GED in 1982. It was the same year Royce Maddox graduated from high school.
“He was a good father and always made the best of everything,” Royce Maddox said. “He helped a lot of people in the community. He taught me how to fish and hunt and always loved his family. He was one of a kind.”
In helping build the department, Mr. Maddox held benefits and requested help from the community and county commissioners.
Maddox and his volunteers worked alone until 1986, when the state designated Myakka as a fire-control district, with a board of fire commissioners who had the authority to levy taxes, according to Herald archives.
In 1991, Mr. Maddox suffered a serious heart attack in Arcadia, and was taken to DeSoto Memorial Hospital.
He made a remarkable recovery and soon went back to work. “That was a kind of born-again experience for him,” Dakin said.
In 1992, Myakka became a dependent fire district under Manatee County government.
At the time, Mr. Maddox urged county commissioners to ensure the community had a hand in the operation of its fire department.
“We built this district up when it wasn’t feasible for the county to support it. All we want is to stay like we are, with the control in the local community,’’ Mr. Maddox said, according to Herald archives.
In 1997, when Myakka City began its annual tradition of Christmas parades, Mr. Maddox was chosen as the first parade grand marshal.
Even after his retirement, he stayed active in the community, keenly interested in the fire department, and in 2004, he opened a 5,000-square-foot shopping center in Myakka, providing the community with a bit of retail space.
In an interview with the Herald that year, he said his primary motivation was to bring modern conveniences to Myakka residents to minimize long drives for routine items.
“I just wanted to give the community something and make a few dollars if I can,” he said in the interview.
Mr. Maddox is survived by his wife, Cheryl; sons Lorrin and Royce; and four grandchildren. Viewing is set for 6-8 p.m. today at Griffith-Cline Funeral Home, 720 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. Funeral service will be 1 p.m. Friday at Myakka City Baptist Church, 36950 Manatee Ave. E., Myakka City.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.