Former magistrate, fire chief remembered

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By Kenny Colston

After a four-year battle with cancer, Oldham County has lost a key businessman and community presence, friends of Robert “Bob” Deibel, said.

Deibel, 74, passed away May 11 at his house, after battling three rounds of pancreatic cancer.

Deibel’s list of accomplishments in Oldham County is long and spans decades of work. Most notably, Deibel served as magistrate on the Oldham County Fiscal Court for 21 years, helped incorporate the City of Crestwood and served as chief of the South Oldham Fire Department for 16 years.

“Bob was a giver to the community, a constant giver,” Circuit Court Clerk Rick Rash, a former magistrate who served with Deibel, said. “Bob was a doer.”

Rash and Deibel spent 17 years together on fiscal court and Rash said Deibel was a mentor to him during his time on the court.

“Bob took me under his wing,” Rash said. “I knew if I had Bob on my side, whatever I was doing would succeed.”

Rash called Deibel a “presence” while he was on the court, but didn’t grandstand or ask for unneeded attention.

Rash said during Deibel’s term on the court, the county shifted significantly to its current lofty status.

“The county came a long, long way, under four different judges (with Deibel),” Rash said. “We took the county from a sleepy, rural county to what it is today, one of the most desirable places to live in the Commonwealth.”

But Deibel’s time as a magistrate isn’t his only accomplishment. A volunteer firefighter for 55 years, Deibel spent 16 of those years as the second chief of SOFD. After retiring as chief, Deibel continued to serve on the department’s board.

“He’s a good person to follow to become a leader,” SOFD Chief Ed Turner said. “He taught those under him well.”

Turner was one of those mentored by Deibel and he took over the top spot at SOFD from him in 1994. Turner said Deibel was important to SOFD during his service there, whether as a firefighter or chief.

“Bob would do anything he could for anyone,” Turner said. “He’d give the shirt off his back if you needed it. He’s done a lot for the community.

“I think we’ll miss him. He fits in the same mold as Milton Carl Stoess, they both rank right up there.”

Other civic service included being a founding member of the City of Crestwood, where his brother, Dennis, still serves as mayor. Deibel also helped start the Oldham County Ambulance District, served on the county board of adjustments and appeals and as a member of the South Oldham Lions Club.

Outside of his civic service, Deibel was also an important member of St. Aloysius in Pewee Valley. While a member, Deibel served on the parish council, administration committee, member of the choir, bingo caller and chairman of the summer picnic for 15 years.

Father John Stoltz, who has been pastor at St. Aloysius for two years, said he didn’t know Deibel as long as others, but was still touched by him.

“In my experience, he was very faithful in coming to mass every week, up until the week he died,” Stoltz said. “It’s a great loss for our church and community. He was a very faithful man and I think he really wanted to serve.”

Deibel also served in the Kentucky National Guard for seven years, Rash said.

His wife, Brenda Greenwell Deibel, daughter Mary Mitchell and son-in-law, Don, and his son, Robert H. Deibel III and daughter-in-law Sondra survive Deibel. Seven grandchildren also survive him, as do his brothers Dennis and Allen and sisters-in-law Sara, Sharon and Linda.

Deibel was buried last Thursday in St. Aloysius Cemetery.

And after his passing, Rash said he’s unsure anyone could replicate the mark left by Deibel.

“They aren’t many people who will step up to the plate for 50 years of service,” Rash said. “I don’t know you’ll ever find someone like him again. He will be missed.”

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