By the Webster Police Department
On Saturday, April 14, the Webster Fire Department lost a close member of our family. Dispatcher Karen (Latour) Ruda, who served the department for more than 18 years, passed away following a 20-plus year battle with heart disease.
Many people knew Karen simply as the voice behind KAR464, the Webster Fire Alarm. But Karen was much more than just a voice. Karen was a close friend and inspiration to many, many people both inside and outside the fire service.
Karen spent her life dedicating herself to her family, her career in the fire service, and the citizens of the area. Karen was as selfless as they come, always putting her family, especially her daughter Haleigh, and her extended fire department family first.
Karen’s dedication to the department and the fire service was second to none and was seen by many. Karen always went above and beyond the call of duty, taking on many new responsibilities over the years. As the only full time department employee, each year, Karen spent countless hours behind the scenes, doing her part to keep the daily operations of the department going. One of Karen’s biggest and most public duties each year was assisting in preparing programs for Fire Safety Awareness, especially during the annual Fire Prevention Week when she would coordinate the annual department open house.
Karen was also very dedicated to a program she helped create in the Southern Worcester County area, the Juvenile Fire Setter Intervention Program. Karen was one of the original and key educators in the program in this area, designed for children who had been involved in some manner of fire setting activities. As part of this program, Karen was one of several advocates around the state that lobbied for legislation to ban so-called toy and novelty lighters, cigarette lighters that were designed to look like every day household items and children’s toys. It became one of Karen’s proudest professional moments when the legislation was approved in 2010 to ban the sale of these items in Massachusetts.
Karen’s dedication didn’t stop with the community outreach though. Karen looked at every single one of her firefighters as being a member of her immediate family. Karen was often referred to as the department’s “den mother” and was always there in a time of need. Karen was very proud to have been able to touch so many lives, and she may never realize how extensively she touched and inspired so many members of this department.
Unfortunately though, about 25 years ago, cancer struck Karen. Being the tough young woman she was, Karen beat this cancer, but the treatment took a toll on her heart, leading her into early stages of heart failure. Twelve years ago, Karen gave birth to her beautiful daughter Haleigh, a miracle to have been able to be blessed with a child following the bout with cancer. Additional damage caused by the pregnancy occurred in Karen’s heart, and ultimately in 2004, Karen would need heart surgery to repair a valve and clear a blockage. True to form though, Karen fought through this and managed to continue living her life as normal.
Five years ago, Karen was again struck by cancer. Again, Karen was strong and beat the cancer, but the surgeries involved pushed Karen’s heart towards a breaking point. About six months later, Karen suffered a massive heart attack. Although Karen survived and was able to return to work, her life would never be the same.
In April 2011, Karen learned she had been placed on the heart transplant list. After several weeks of rapidly deteriorating health, Karen was admitted to Tufts Medical Center in Boston in early December, to await a transplant. Although Karen’s medical team was top notch and provided Karen all the treatment needed to get her ready to receive a heart, Karen’s health continued to deteriorate. Through it all, Karen still put up a valiant fight and every day, still continued to show that selfless personality, always showing more concern for the family and friends around her than for herself. Unfortunately, time took its toll on Karen, and she passed on.
Karen’s legacy and dedication to her family, friends, fire department family, and the fire service will never be forgotten. Karen lived her life knowing that she was suffering from a likely terminal disease, a disease with which she was struck by no fault of her own. Through it all, and knowing that her time could come at any day, Karen was always there for all of us and always put everyone but herself first.
Karen leaves behind her daughter Haleigh, her parents Roger and Patricia Latour, a brother Gary, her extended family, her fire department family, and so many people whom she has touched and made a difference over the years.
Although Karen may no longer be with us, her dedication, her legacy, and her love will remain with us forever.
- Tuesday, 17 April 2012
- Posted in Categories: : News