HUNDRED, W.Va. — Residents of Hundred are still mourning the loss of long-time fire chief Bert Anderson.
Anderson, 43, who died unexpectedly at his home Saturday, had been a part of the Hundred Volunteer Fire Department since his days as a student at Hundred High School.
“Around 27 years or so he’s been involved,” Hundred Mayor Chip Goff said. “He was a member of Grant Town Volunteer Fire Department, he was a long-term employee with the Marion County Rescue Squad, and he’s been part of the Hundred Volunteer Fire Department since he was 15 years old.”
Anderson spent at least 18 of those years as the Fire Chief of Hundred’s VFD and was looked to by many as a well-respected local hero.
“In our fire department, he was our rock,” Goff said. “He was our anchor, and to many of us, not just in our fire department but the fire world, he was many people’s best friend.”
And his impact stretched far beyond the walls of the fire department. Goff said that Anderson was very active in the town of Hundred.
“What he did for our community in his lifetime, it’ll be hard to fill those shoes,” he said. “To me, he was my role model. I always looked forward to his guidance on calls, his expertise on how to handle a fire call.”
Goff added that Anderson knew how to put out fires — both literally and figuratively
“Not only that, but every day we’d talk on the phone,” he said. “As the mayor, sometimes I’d need to vent, and he’d be the person I’d call and vent to.”
Though Anderson was not a dad, Goff said he certainly had a passion for children.
“He didn’t have kids, but he was a father figure,” he said. “Many of his buddies, he’d take their kids fishing and hunting, he’d teach them how to shoot guns. He absolutely was a teddy bear with the kids. They absolutely loved him.”
Of course, Anderson was essential to have around in an emergency, particularly last summer when Hundred was impacted by devastating flooding.
Goff said when the floods hit in July 2017, the new Hundred Volunteer Fire Department building, which Anderson was instrumental in opening, had only just opened.
“We opened the doors just two weeks prior to the 2017 flood, and it completely destroyed the whole inside of it,” he said.
Now just over one year later, the building is back open and new trucks have been added to the fleet, Goff said.
“This was his passion, a dream to have a fire department that would be as nice as anywhere in the country,” he said. “He just designed a brand new 3,000 gallon tanker, and his wife told me the other day she was saddened that he would never see this truck now because it won’t arrive until next year.”
When it does arrive, the new tanker truck will be named “Big Bert” in Anderson’s honor.
“We’re going to have some things done to it while it’s being manufactured that way that way the whole world and the community knows that this was Bert’s truck. He was very proud of it,” Goff said.
And that’s not the only part of the fleet Anderson had a hand in.
“We do have a new mini bumper that he designed that we just got with help from our insurance money from the flood. He designed a tanker engine that we have now that we received a week after the flood,” Goff said. “All these trucks were very important to him, and I’m also trying to get some firetrucks that meant a lot to him over the years that we had sold. I’m still trying to reach out to different fire agencies to see if I can have them here for Friday in his honor.”
Thanks to efforts from Anderson and other first responders, Goff said he feels the town of Hundred is now doing quite well.
“All of our businesses are reopened. Some of them got brand new fresh starts at life, totally remodeled. We do still have people doing some work on their homes, finishing them up,” he said. “We are currently this week blacktopping the streets that were destroyed, so by the end of this week, our town will have a new look as far as paved streets that were destroyed by the flooding.”
There was concern in Wetzel County earlier this week, as minor flooding hit certain areas again with rising river levels.
“The Ohio River was about to crest and flood,” Goff said. “Many people were in New Martinsville trying to clean up the courthouse and prepare for that.”
While Goff believes FEMA could have done more to help his hometown, he said what recovery wasn’t done by grant monies was completed by neighbors helping one another.
“Wetzel County is a great county. We’re surrounded by some of the greatest people, and I’m so proud to be from Wetzel County,” he said. “We have a long-term recovery group that we put together serving Wetzel County, and with the fundraiser we did, we helped out 266 different families or groups.”
The Wetzel County Commission and the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce both contributed greatly to flood efforts, helping to raise money for businesses and residents rebuild.
“Our community is stronger than ever,” Goff said. “We’re going to bring Hundred back better than ever and hopefully make it more attractive. Hopefully one day it will be much bigger. We’re going in the right direction.”
Anderson will be honored Friday with a funeral service and first responder sendoff. Goff said he is anticipating hundreds to attend the funeral.
“If he could only look down now and see how much support he has. It’s unbelievable. This week, he’s as popular as Burt Reynolds,” Goff said with a laugh.
“It’s unbelievable how many people he really knew, how many people he touched,” he said. “We always talked about this day that would come, and I always promised him that he’d have the best send off ever. With all the help from my fellow members at the fire department, the community and so many other different organizations and mutual aid assistance, we’re going to make sure he has the perfect send off.”
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Anderson’s honor can be made to the Hundred VFD, 130 Pennsylvania Ave. Hundred, WV 26575.