"If you want to be a clown" Remembering Roanoke City's Chief Billy Obenchain

The following  poem is read at the beginning of every Roanoke City Recruit School and has become the unofficial creed of the Roanoke Fire / EMS Department.

“If you want to be a clown,
you’d better be lookin’ for a circus.
If you’re lookin’ for a free ride,
here’s a dollar; call a cab.
If you want to be a “Showman”,
Vegas will welcome you with open arms.
If fulfillment of an ego is high on your
priority list, might I suggest Hollywood.
And if you want to be a millionaire,
by all means, this ain’t for you.
But, if you don’t mind hard work, sweating in
freezing weather, getting back less than half of
what you give, and finding your name at the
    bottom of your own priority list,
   then stick around!
        I believe you could be a Firefighter.

              Battalion Chief William “Billy” Obenchain”

The Roanoke Fire / EMS Department lost an innovator, a teacher, mentor, Battalion Chief,  and good friend but, most of all; a great man back in December of 2009. That’s when Chief William “Billy” Obenchain lost his battle with the rare  Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma (CTCL).  To get a better understanding of the man Chief  Billy was PLEASE take a moment to read an article Rhett Fleitz put together and posted on Roanokefire.com following the Chief’s retirement. Find that article  HERE.

photo by Lt. Mike Overacker Roanokefirefighters.com


The Chief was laid to rest with Fire Department Honors on a cold and windy December day.

View Rhett’s coverage of the funeral from roanokefire.com   HERE

Lt. Mike Overacker (retired) has photo coverage   HERE

The Melrose Misfits posted stories   HERE  and  HERE

Learn more about “CTCL” Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma and a cause for a cure in Billy’s name at   Steps4Billy.org

Chief  Billy has been gone just over a year now but he is not and will not be forgotten. Somehow or another I missed a great article in our local news concerning Billy’s younger sister Alice (Alice Obenchain-Leeson).

photo by JEANNA DUERSCHERL The Roanoke Times

Alice chose to literally walk through her grief. She decided to walk 100 miles in a single week visiting places that held special memories and/or were favorites of  Billy. Her walk would raise money for the cause they named  STEPS 4 BILLY in a search for a cure for CTCL through Duke University Medical Center.

Roanoke.com has the story  “Whatever Happened to… Alice Obenchain-Leeson..”   HERE.  The story is by Matt Chittum 

The picture to the left was used in the story and shows Alice with one of Billy’s sons (Zach Obenchain) who is on the job here in Roanoke and assigned to Billy’s old house and shift .. #2-C.

Chief Billy will be honored at the 2011 Virginia Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service on June 4th @ 12 noon. For more information on the service please visit   Vafire.com

You can help the fight against CTCL and honor Billy’s memory  by sending a check or money order, directly to:     

                  The Duke CTCL Fund.     C/O  Dr. Elise Olsen  (Steps 4 Billy)    Box 3294 DUMC Durham, NC 27710


May you continue to Rest in Peace Chief !

Captain Wines