Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pend Oreille fire station to be named after battalion chief: ‘Your memory will always burn brightly’

By Alexandria Osborne The Spokesman-Review

A sea of yellow flooded streets in Spokane on Friday as a procession of fire trucks from multiple counties transported the ashes of Battalion Chief Charles Ronald “Ron” Cato to Calvary Spokane, where hundreds of community members and firefighters honored his memory.

Cato died May 30 after a battle with brain cancer, ending 31 years of service . His most recent posts were his role as battalion chief at Pend Oreille County Fire District 2 and as a volunteer captain with Spokane Fire District 10, according to his obituary.

He was also an EMS educator, Boy Scout leader and Spokane Valley ambulance director, according to his obituary.

Chris Cato, Pend Oreille County Fire District 2 division chief and Ron’s son, said his father took pride in finding other people’s ability to succeed, even if they did not see that ability.

“Then he’d sit down, and he figured out a way to pull that ability out of them and get them to that spot where they were the most successful,” Chris Cato said.

Chris said his dad tried to be as knowledgeable as possible and would find information himself if he did not know something. He then would teach that to other s.

His father was a great role model and balanced his time between work and family, Chris said. Ron made sure his family knew what it meant to have a work ethic, but also knew what it meant to have fun.

“He really was an example of the dad I hope I am,” Chris said.

Ron showed Chris how to find success, and some of Chris’ best moments in the fire service were by his dad’s side.

“I have so many memories with so many stories of my father I cannot begin to tell you because my dad was that leader that everybody strives to be,” Chris Cato said. “The worst day in a man’s life is realizing the one person, the one man, who wanted you to be better than them is gone. I hope I can live up to his expectation and his memory as a dad, as a teacher, as a leader and as a friend.”

Chris Cato said his father left a legacy of trained firefighters, and there was not a firefighter in the audience of the memorial service who was not trained or did not know someone who Ron trained.

Ron Cato has been a hero for several communities over the years and could always be counted on, Chris said.

“Communities are safer because Ron was in that truck,” he said.

Chris said he was inspired by his father to be a firefighter , and he hopes to be a fraction of the guy, firefighter and leader that his dad was.

“I don’t know that anybody will ever be able to reach the level that he reached and find the success that he found in the brotherhood that’s fire service,” Chris said.

Sarah Williams, who also works in the fire service and is Ron’s daughter, said her dad was the type of person who always wanted to do better, and while people thought he went easy on her because she was his daughter, he was probably the hardest on her.

Williams said it was hard some days to have her father as a captain in the fire department, but it also helped her grow and made her a better person.

“He made a huge impact on the community, whether he realized it or not, because my dad was so humble,” she said.

Chris said Pend Oreille Fire District 2 plans to rename Station 25 in honor of his father.

Chris Haynes, Pend Oreille County Fire District 2 chief, said he knew Ron as a battalion chief, mentor and friend for three years and during their time working together, Hayes saw Ron as a man of honor and dedication.

“(He was) a man who dedicated himself fully to his roles as husband, father, grandfather, firefighter, EMT, lieutenant bar captain, battalion chief, teacher, mentor, friend, leader and an emblem of what’s right about America,” Haynes said.

Haynes said he found solace and guidance in his discussions with Ron, which remind Haynes of the leader he wants to be.

“His authenticity made Ron not just respected, but loved by all who are fortunate enough to cross paths with him,” Haynes said. “The impact Ron left on our agency, on our community and on each individual he interacted with cannot be overstated. His legacy is a benchmark for all.”

At his memorial service, flags were presented to Ron’s father, two children and three grandchildren.

Pat Pawlak, Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority division chief, said a tradition in the firefighting industry is to ring a bell to signal when a call has been completed.

But a bell is also rung after the death of a firefighter to announce a comrade passing, Pawlak said.

“We utilize those traditions as symbols which reflect honor and respect on those who have given so much and who have served so well, to symbolize the devotion that Battalion Chief Ron Cato had for his duty … who has selflessly devoted his life for the good of his fellow man,” he said.

At 2:28 p.m., the bell rang, signifying that Ron is out of service.

“Rest in peace, Ron,” Haynes said. “Your memory will always burn brightly.”