White Oak man talks balancing work, love in 50th year as firefighter

White Oak man talks balancing work, love in 50th year as firefighter
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 12:47 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2023 at 10:05 PM CST
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WHITE OAK, Texas (KLTV) - These days most people have a couple career changes during their time on the job, but a White Oak man has stuck with the same job during his working life. And that man has been a firefighter for half a century.

Tommy Graves and his wife Diana are very familiar with the White Oak Volunteer Fire Department. Neither know just when Tommy will have to stop by and gear up.

“The wives don’t understand how everything works. When you get your fire call, you jump up out of the bed, out the door. They don’t hear from you for hours,” Tommy said.

He said that happened just a few days ago.

“I didn’t think he was going to be gone that long. He was gone for seven hours. It got to me. I got over it, but it got to me,” Diana said.

Even after 30 years of marriage, being at the beck and call of disaster can still be trying on a relationship. Diana said she understands that first responder marriages often don’t last.

“Seventy percent end in divorce and we’re still here, so that’s a blessing,” Diana said.

But Tommy said it’s in his blood, the firefighting, and the relationship.

“You have to take it one day at a time. One day at a time,” Diana said.

And Tommy has taken it one day at a time since 1972 when he worked for the Kilgore Fire Department, and that started since:

“My dad, he was voted to be a fire chief. And he did that for seven years,” Tommy said.

His dad was White Oak Chief. Later Tommy became White Oak’s first fire marshal and was for 23 years. Recently he was awarded a 50-year plaque featuring a fire nozzle he’d used for many years. Tommy said in the sixties his parent’s shed caught fire when they were burning trash.

And he’s been quenching the burn ever since, with no desire to permanently hang up that hat.

Tommy said he plans to continue volunteering for White Oak for another five or ten years, and his wife Diana said she’ll still worry, but she’ll put up with it.