LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Hundreds of people said goodbye to a Bullitt County hero Friday.
Funeral services were held for Zoneton Fire Protection District Chief Rob Orkies. Hundreds gathered at Okolona Christian Church to bid him one last tear-filled goodbye.
“[It’s] sad,” longtime friend Greg Burton said. “It’s just heartbreaking.”
Orkies spent 36 years in the fire service, starting with the Okolona Fire Department. In 1994, he moved to the Zoneton Fire Protection District where he eventually became chief. Orkies introduced several community-based events into the department, including the annual Halloween party and Santa runs.
Through the years, his friends said he made Bullitt County feel like home.
“All of us are better people for knowing him,” Zoneton firefighter Rich Carlson said. “He brought out the best in us and Zoneton is a much better fire department because of Rob.”
In October, Orkies was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in his neck and lymph nodes. A few weeks later, while in treatment for his cancer, was also diagnosed with COVID-19. He was quickly intubated and died on Dec. 11.
After the funeral service, Orkies’ casket was led in a procession throughout Bullitt County, including stops at Okolona Fire Station 2, where Orkies’ career began, the old Zoneton fire station and the current Zoneton Fire Station One. The procession finished at Herbon Cemetery, where Orkies was laid to rest.
Along the route, dozens of cars lined Preston Highway so people could watch the procession and pay their respects. Both childhood friends and complete strangers came to say goodbye.
“If we could do more, we would,” Burton said. “It’s just a small part for us to come out and say, ‘We love you, and we’re going to miss you.’”
“We’re family,” Bullitt County resident Larry Hartell said. “Don’t you think? I think we’re all family out here.”