Firefighters with the Crossville Fire Department (CFD) laid to rest one of their own on Wednesday, Sept. 11, after a memorial service and 2-mile procession through DeKalb County.
Kole Richards had been with the department for six years when he was struck by a vehicle on Interstate 59 South while out on a service call changing a flat tire. He was 28 years old.
Named Crossville’s “Firefighter of the Year” in 2016, Richards left behind a loving family and community of friends.
His older brother, Kyle Richards, said Kole Richards was a “typical younger brother,” always following him around wanting to play when they were growing up.
“He was like my own personal crash test dummy,” Kyle Richards said. “I would attach a rope to his Cozy Coupe … and drag him around the driveway.”
He was a small, shy kid, Kyle Richards said, until high school where he excelled at basketball.
Kole Richards lived in Dawson with his wife Angela Richards, stepdaughter Adrienne Gibson — who was away at studying at Jacksonville State University (JSU) at the time of the accident — and his stepson, Alec Gibson, who has a wife and child of his own.
“He was a family man,” fellow firefighter Eric Rolph said.
Kole Richards and his wife were together eight years.
“[He] was the loving husband to Angela in which they shared an unconventional, unique, spontaneous, adventurous and delightful eight years together,” his family stated. “He gave unconditional love to … Alec and Adrienne, as if they were his own. He shared with Alec his love of the fire department and law enforcement and was proud of Alec’s dedication to serving others.
“He encouraged Adrienne to achieve her dreams through college at Snead [Snead State Community College] and beamed with pride the day they moved her to JSU. When Alec and [his wife] Ashleigh had Kaison, Kole could not have been more proud of his title, ‘Pip.’”
Kole Richards helped take care of his mother, Frances Richards, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was six years old.
“He would run errands for her and help transfer her from the bed to the power chair,” his family stated. “Kole had a dream when he was younger and told his mom not to worry that God told him there are no power chairs in Heaven because they aren’t needed.”
In addition to being a fireman, he worked as a truck mechanic and vice president of his dad’s company, Dino’s, LLC.
“He was dedicated to his work,” his family stated. “He worked hard and never complained, determined to treat each customer with respect, compassion and care.”
The final call went out for “Crossville 15 Kole Richards” over the first responder radios during his memorial service. After no response was heard, the dispatcher thanked Kole for his service and told him to rest easy.
“That’s something no first responder ever wants to hear come over the radio,” firefighter Kim Wahl said.
Despite a sudden downpour of rain, people from all over DeKalb County paid their respects at the memorial.
“The support from the community and surrounding counties was absolutely touching,” Wahl said. “It almost felt like DeKalb County shut down for those hours and honored a true family man and hero.
“As the memorial took place, it began to flood out of nowhere,” she added. “I believe Kole looked down with the angels and tears fell from the sky at the honor he was receiving that day.”
After the memorial, firefighters put the casket on the CFD’s new rescue truck and started a procession through DeKalb County, going past the fire station where he served one last time.
“As we came through Geraldine, the band stopped practice and honored Kole as we passed by,” Rolph said. “Then, as we entered into Crossville, the football team lined the parking lot outside the field, paying their respects.”
Members of the community also lined up along Alabama Highway 68, many with hands over their hearts, to show support, Rolph said.
Collinsville Fire Department volunteered to take calls for the CFD during Kole Richards’ visitation, and Kilpatrick Fire Department helped out during the memorial service.
Many other departments participated in the memorial service and procession, which included 20 semi-trucks and emergency vehicles.
Kyle Richards, who rode in a truck at the front of the procession, said he was humbled by the community’s response.
“It felt more like a parade than a funeral procession,” Kyle Richards said.
To purchase decals and T-shirts honoring Kole Richards, contact Blake Gaylor at 256-572-3606. All proceeds will go to Angela Richards.
You can also donate to Kole Richards’ GoFundMe page.
The following poem was written by Dino Richards, Kole Richards' father.
Twenty Eight Years
August fifth nineteen ninety one
The lord sent us Kole
Our little bundle of fun
Lord he was a blessing
Right from the start
That precious little smile
Would melt your heart
Whether dressing like a baby
To go out for halloween
Or dressing up like elvis
He was always our king
He loved playing basketball
And being fierce the lion
Lord don't you know
Kole had a great time
You sent him a beautiful wife
Whom made him beam with pride
Two wonderful and loving children
They all stood by his side
Kole was a fireman
He loved it don't you know
The fire alarm would ring
He'd say dad i gotta go
A great man you had become
The best friend i ever knew
I just didn't know
Everyone else knew it too
Lord he never met a stranger
His help they did need
He was there by their side
Carrying out your good deed
His heart was larger
Than his body could hold
His faith in Jesus
Burned deep in his soul
He was caring and loving
Kind hearted and free
He would always greet you
With a big smile to see
Lord i know the devil was driving
The truck that hit my son
But you stepped in and said
Devil you're not getting this one
You swept him up
Your arms you did hold
You took him home
God rest his soul
Lord I'm not mad at you
But I really don't understand
Why you took him so early
But you got one hell of a man
Kole, I know your work here is done
As you take your final ride
I don't know what to do
Without you by my side
As i sit here today
Drowning in my tears
Thank you lord for giving him to us
For twenty eight years