Middletown firefighter with ‘spunk’ to be honored at national memorial

4:30 p.m Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 Middletown

Scott Bruggeman’s rambunctious personality showed early in his life.

When his mother, Ginger Bruggeman, dropped him off for kindergarten at Lincoln School, Scott would run home and be sitting on the front porch when his mother arrived. Eventually, after four episodes, the principal picked up Scott at home and told him: “When your mom drops you off, you’re mine.”

He was a free spirit as a kid, as an adult, and even on his death bed.

“That was his spunk,” his mother said. “That’s how he survived everything he survived. He could have sat in a chair and died. But he wasn’t that way.”

Instead, Bruggeman fought until the end, and this month, his family — his parents, Dave and Ginger Bruggeman, and a group of Middletown firefighters — will celebrate his life during a Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial service in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Bruggeman, 45, a Middletown firefighter for 20 years, died on Jan. 18, 2016, at home. His death was classified as a medical line of duty death.

About 100 firefighters die in the line of duty every year, and they are remembered during a service that includes their names being etched on a wall, a flag presentation to relatives, motorcycles riding through Colorado Springs as part of “Bringing In The Thunder” and pipes and drums playing rock ‘n’ roll music throughout downtown.

“It’s the perfect way to honor Scott,” Cpt. Jon Harvey said. “I’m sure he will be looking down on us laughing.”

Harvey said it’s “hard to describe” the emotion and atmosphere during the memorial service. This will be the third consecutive year a Southwest Ohio firefighter was honored: Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman last year and Cincinnati firefighter Daryl Gordon in 2015.

“You have all these firefighters and all these families and they really don’t know each other, but they have the bond of being in a firefighter family,” Harvey said. “Everybody understands why they’re there.”

Now Harvey and other members of the Middletown Union IAFF will honor Bruggeman, a 1988 Fenwick High School graduate and firefighter who retired in 2015 after 20 years. His life took a tragic turn on March 18, 2014, when he and a police officer were restraining an uncooperative patient in the Atrium Medical Center emergency room, his mother said.

He had a heart attack during the incident, and later was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs in the body, which started in his lungs and eventually damaged his heart.

There is a unique bond shared by firefighters. It’s one of the few professions where they work together for 24 straight hours. There are no secrets in the fire house.

“Truly like being with your brothers and sisters,” said Harvey, who joined the department with Bruggeman in 1995. “We never go anywhere without one another. We go on runs together, the grocery store together, we eat together. That bond of you knowing your co-workers will be there for you and the whole, ‘Never leave anybody behind’ motto.”

Eighteen months after Bruggeman’s death, the bond between his family and the firefighters remains strong. They frequently check on his parents and they’re helping Dave Bruggeman with some home improvements.

“These guys here, they’re our rock,” Ginger Bruggeman said. “It’s not like, ‘OK, it’s been a year and a half.’ They haven’t stopped checking on us.”

Ginger Bruggeman said she hadn’t thought about the memorial service until recently. She “pushed it back” in her mind, she said. But now it’s getting close.

“What an honor, but then you think, why are we going for that honor,” she said.

She has no regrets, a true dream for any parent. Her son served in the U.S. Marines, came home, then began his career as a Middletown firefighter, working with his uncle, Fire Chief Paul Lolli.

After his first heart attack, for the next 18 months, Bruggeman was constantly in and out of the hospital, either at Atrium Medical Center, Christ Hospital or Cleveland Clinic. His mother never left his side. During those 18 months, she was at home for seven consecutive days just once.

“I don’t think any parent should have to go through this, but they do,” Ginger Bruggeman said, grasping at her cross necklace. “I feel very blessed that I had him for 45 years.”

She mentioned other parents who lose children much younger.

“There are people who have had worse situations,” she said.

She talked to her son about his final days and they agreed his mother would always be there, sitting at his bedside until his final breath.

“My prayer to God was, ‘Please let me live long enough to see him through this and if You want to take me the next day, I won’t beg You not to,’ ” she said. “I said that every morning and I was granted that wish.”

View full experience