From left, Lt. Craig Hostetler with Orrville Fire Department, Kidron Fire Chief Jon Peters, Captain Rod Neuenschwander and Assistant Chief Kent Neuenschwander. Trucks and vehicles from area agencies formed a parade Thursday at Wooster Hospital to show support to Kidron firefighter Rudy Hofstetter while he was fighting COVID-19 and pneumonia for more than a week.
Two of Rudy Hofstetter’s sons visit him at the hospital window on the platform of an Orrville aerial ladder truck.
Kidron Fire Chief Jon Peters said a hospital staff member told him that volunteer firefighter Rudy Hofstetter needed a miracle, and that miracle showed up Thursday night.
Peters is familiar with the story about how Bryan Hofstetter came to be known commonly as Rudy.
Back at Dalton High School, he was fairly small in stature compared to some of his fellow football players, Peters said.
The nickname was inspired by the 1993 biographical sports movie, “Rudy,” about a player who had to overcome obstacles.
“He (Hofstetter) really wanted to play football,” Peters said. “He was kind of small but he was so full of heart everyone on the team started calling him Rudy – and it’s stuck the rest of his life.”
For the past 22 years at Kidron Volunteer Fire Department, the high school football player with the big heart became the volunteer firefighter with the even bigger heart. When the father of three became sick with COVID-19 and found himself fighting pneumonia in Wooster Hospital last week, Peters sparked an idea to lift Hofstetter’s spirits – and plans took off thanks to neighboring agencies.
“He would do anything for anybody,” Peters said. “I think anybody would do anything for him that knows him.”
Peters said Hofstetter is often the one behind the wheel if residents notice an engine racing out to a fire. Not only is Hofstetter an excellent pump operator, but he makes sure firefighters stay hydrated and have snacks, the chief said.
Once Peters received the go-ahead from his wife, Paula, who works at Wooster Hospital, he handed the reins over to assistant chief Kent Neuenschwander and captain Troy Shaum. They contacted area first responders and the event became bigger than Peters imagined.
“This all came together within hours,” Peters said.
Neighboring fire departments agreed to stand by for KVFD so Kidron firefighters could go to the hospital. On top of that, “They called me in the afternoon and said we’re going to have a ladder truck there and get the family there,” Peters said. “That really made it special.”
A parade of trucks from at least half a dozen different agencies with their lights flashing greeted Hofstetter outside of his third-floor hospital room Thursday evening. Orrville Fire Department gave family members and firefighters a boost in a ladder truck so they could get close to Hofstetter through the window.
Peters said last week that he gets teary-eyed when he recalls the show of support.
“It was just amazing how many showed up,” he said. “They showed up with a crew. It was just overwhelming.”
Fellow firefighters and loved ones held signs with encouraging messages for Hofstetter outside the hospital on the chilly winter evening and left some signs outside of his room. Peters said those on the platform on the aerial ladder were able to communicate with Hofstetter and a hospital staff member thanks to writing notes with dry-erase markers on the window.
Peters said he would like to give a huge thank you to the hospital for allowing them to do this, and Orrville Fire Department for supplying Ladder 66 so Hofstetter could see his family.
“We just knew he was getting pretty down and we just wanted to boost him up and give him some motivation to fight this off,” Peters said.
The motivation must have worked because KVFD’s Facebook page shared that prayers had been answered and Hofstetter had been discharged and returned home Sunday.