Richard D. Kummer, a retired Baltimore Fire Department paramedic who was also a volunteer firefighter, died March 11 from renal failure at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center. The Joppa resident was 64.
“Rick devoted his entire life to public service,” said Karin Remesch, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and friend for 45 years.
Richard Donald Kummer was born in Baltimore, the son of Donald H. Kummer, a Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. worker, and Elizabeth Ann “Bettie” Kummer, a Johns Hopkins Hospital secretary.
He was raised in Joppa, graduated from Edgewood High School and attended Towson University.
Mr. Kummer’s 49 years of volunteering in the Harford County fire and ambulance community began when he was 15 years old.
He and his father were both life members of the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company and during the 1960s and 1970s sirens and citizens’ band radio calls summoned firefighters and ambulance crews to the fire station.
Mary Frances Graef, a cousin, spent a lot of time in the Kummer family household when she was growing up, and recalled hearing the CB radio spring to life announcing a fire or medical emergency call. When it happened, father and son would grab their coats to leave.
“As soon as the box squawked and the monitoring and reports started coming through, everyone would stop and freeze — even the dog — and we would all stand there watching them run out of the door,” said Ms. Graef of Nottingham.
Mr. Kummer was working as a dispatcher for the Harford County Communications Center when he became a police officer in 1976 for the Aberdeen Police Department.
“He was always an officer who tried to help people, and that was the same reason he became a paramedic for the Baltimore Fire Department. He was always trying to help people,” said Luis Caldero, a former Aberdeen police officer who worked with Mr. Kummer from 1978 to 1979.
“As a police officer, Rick was always to the point, as I was,” said Mr. Caldero, of Glassboro, N.J., who retired as a sergeant from the New Jersey Department of Corrections. “We always wanted to do the right thing and we wanted people we were dealing with to do the right thing.”
A trained professional paramedic, Mr. Kummer worked for the city Fire Department for more than 15 years before retiring in 2014.
In addition to being a volunteer firefighter for Joppa-Magnolia, he also served as a lieutenant and captain with the Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company and the Fallston Volunteer Fire Company.
Tom Schaech, of Pennsdale, Pa., a past chief of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company and past president of the Harford County Fire and EMS Association, was a longtime friend and colleague of Mr. Kummer’s.
“I think the biggest thing people need to know about Rick and his EMS calls, rescues and being in the classroom was that this guy was totally dedicated to imparting knowledge to those who would follow us,” said Mr. Schaech, who retired in 2013 from the Baltimore County Fire Department after serving as captain of the Sparrows Point Fire Station.
He said Mr. Kummer was “calm and result driven when he was on a call. He always delivered top-notch care.”
He recalled working with Mr. Kummer on Jan. 4, 1987, when Amtrak’s northbound Colonial, Train 94, crashed into three stalled Conrail locomotives at Gunpowder Interlocking, just south of the Gunpowder River Bridge in Chase.
The Colonial’s engineer, a lounge car attendant and 14 passengers were killed in a wreck that injured 175.
“Joppa-Magnolia was one of the first to respond for a call for assistance,” Mr. Schaech said. “And in the midst of all that mayhem here comes a guy… whose first comment was, ‘What do you need?’ I knew I had a guy who knew his stuff, and he brought a sense of calm to that awful scene.”
Mr. Kummer remained by his friend’s side for more than two days working triage and treatment of the injured.
“Rick adjusted his personality to fit the situation. He was quiet but always took a leadership role,” said Mr. Schaech.
An outdoorsman, Mr. Kummer enjoyed hiking in the fall in the hills and mountains of Western Maryland with his dog Jeb.
During his college years and through an exchange program, Mr. Kummer spent six months in a small village near Fuessen in Bavaria, and climbed Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze, which rises 9,179 feet above sea level in the Wetterstein Mountains.
While Mr. Kummer never returned to Germany, he never lost his affinity for the country, its people and customs.
“I was working for the Harford Democrat in 1973 when this very smart guy who was doing PR for a volunteer fire company came into the office,” recalled Ms. Remesch, a Joppa resident who was born and raised in Germany.
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“We started sharing stories about German traditions and have been best friends ever since. Rick became a member of our family,” she said. “Christmas was his favorite holiday, and he would urge everyone to send him a Christmas list. And it better be a long list because one present was never enough.”
Ms. Remesch said he would arrive at her home with his car filled with presents, requiring several trips to retrieve. She said Mr. Kummer spent every Christmas Eve with her family since 1973 and “enjoyed the old German tradition of lighting real candles on the Christmas tree.”
Mr. Kummer enjoyed reading about U.S. and world history. He was also a football, baseball and soccer fan, and during his college days at Towson had played rugby and softball.
“Those who were with him during his final hours sang Christmas songs to him at his bedside — some in German, others in English,” Ms. Remesch said.
Funeral services for Mr. Kummer will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at McComas Funeral Home in Abingdon.