By Frank Lewis
Very few people are ever referred to as “irreplaceable” but that is the word that is being used to describe Jim Saddler. Saddler, of Portsmouth, a former chief of the Portsmouth Fire Department and one of the most active members of James Dickey Post 23 of the American Legion, died around noon on Friday. He was 81.
“Jim can’t be replaced,” former Post 23 Commander Karen Collett said. “He cannot be replaced. This is not just a loss to the family but the whole community.”
Collett said Saddler taught her the ropes when it came to Legion leadership.
“Any time you would need any advice, anything from Jim, he was always there to give it to you,” Collett said. “Whether you liked it or not he was a straight shooter and he didn’t hold back. He gave me lots of good advice when I was commander of the post.”
Collett wept as she summed up Saddler’s life – “He loved his veterans. He really loved his veterans.”
Sean Gee is also a former Post 23 Commander and a current member of the Portsmouth Fire Department.
“Jim Saddler was just a great man,” Gee said. “He was a great American. He dove head-first into the community. There are projects going around that he started over the years – especially the Veterans Picnic and Veterans Christmas Party. He was a great leader, just a really super super human being.”
Saddler had joined the Portsmouth Fire Department in February of 1960 and was promoted to Portsmouth Fire Chief in June of 1980 having received numerous awards while serving in that department. He served as a member of the Southern Ohio Fire and Arson Investigatorss Association, a local organization whose goal was to decrease incidence of arson. He served on the board of the ohio Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators and was a 1977 recipient of the George A. Eisnaugle Award for outstanding contribution to combating arson.
“Some people retire and they go on their way,” Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison said. “But Saddler really touched the fire department for generations. He continued to invest in the fire department long after he retired and went to work at the (Fire) Marshal’s Office. Even after he retired from the Marshal’s Office he stayed involved.”
Saddler served in the U.S. Navy from 1953-1957 and devoted his life to serving his fellow veterans.
“He has done so much to help people. He did what he could to make people’s lives more comfortable,” Post 23 Commander Mike Phillips said.
Despite suffering from an illness, Saddler was in attendance at the annual Nursing Home Veterans Picnic at the Shawnee Boat Club located at the Court Street Landing in Portsmouth on a sunny June afternoon.
“Look at all the people,” Saddler beamed. He was right. Veterans from nursing homes and their caregivers converged on the riverfront to enjoy a lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, beans and cornbread, and fruit, thanks to the hard work and organization efforts of Saddler.
For many years, Jim and his wife, Jane Saddler, parents of Amy and City Councilman Rich Saddler, joined with fellow veterans and took gifts to patients at the Veterans Hospital in Chilicothe on Christmas morning.
“He’s in a better place,” Rich Saddler said. “We had him here at the house. He was comfortable. He didn’t suffer.”
Funeral services are pending at the F.C. Daehler Mortuary.
“There never was a finer fellow sent down on this earth,” Phillips said. “I could just go on and on and just praise him all day long.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.