Longtime Tulsa firefighter Richard Rakes dies at 74
BY NATALIE O'NEAL World Staff Writer
Friday, May 04, 2012
5/04/12 at 6:20 AM
From miner to high-rise painter to firefighter, Richard Rakes seemed to have lived several lives in one.
Serving 22 years with the Tulsa Fire Department, "Smoothie" or "Super-Gnat," as he was called by friends, was known for his dependability and his affinity for saving lives and walking on the edge.
After answering a newspaper ad in 1967, Rakes became a rookie firefighter at Station 5 (5th Street and Boston Avenue). He rose through the ranks to driver and on to ladder captain, working at Stations 17, 24 and 31 before his retirement in 1988.
Although firefighters today have more safety and precautionary measures, when Rakes took the job, oxy-gen tanks and masks weren't part of the uniform. Such vulnerability in the field required a trusting and responsible crew.
Firefighting is "kind of a brotherhood-type deal" said John Wood, a retired firefighter and longtime friend of Rakes.
Wood met Rakes when the former had suffered from smoke inhalation while retrieving a baby from a house fire. Rakes helped bring Wood back to life.
Their friendship translated to a well-oiled team as both served as captains in the Fire Department.
When your actions could mean the life or death of another, having your crewmates anticipate your next move is vital, Wood said.
"We knew what each would do. He just knew what I was doing and I knew what he was doing," Wood said.
Richard Paul Rakes died April 21. He was 74.
A funeral service was held April 25 at Maranatha Baptist Temple in Collinsville under the direction of Collinsville Dolton Funeral Home.
Though he saved many lives, including Wood's, Rakes was "never big about having someone pat him on the back. It was just part of the job to him," said Shirley Rakes, his wife of 56 years.
After a job-related injury forced him to retire, Rakes continued to lend a life-saving hand as a flood claims adjuster, going to Florida during the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Some of the many other jobs Rakes held in his lifetime included painting high-rises in Chicago, mining molybdenum ore in Climax, Colo., teaching Sunday school to fifth- and sixth-graders and construction work with his son, Shawn.
He loved fishing with John Wood and his other firefighter friends and a traditional Thanksgiving hunting trip with his brothers, sons and nephews.
Survivors include his wife, Shirley Rakes; three sons, David, Michael and Shawn; his sister, Francis Head; two brothers, Bill and Lonnie; 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Saving lives was part of firefighter's job
Natalie O'Neal 918-581-8347
Richard Paul Rakes: Serving 22 years with the Tulsa Fire Department, "Smoothie" or "Super-Gnat," as he was called by friends, was known for his dependability and his affinity for saving lives and walking on the edge. Rakes became a rookie firefighter in 1967 and worked his was up the ladder to captain