Pikesville Volunteer Fire Co. President Richard Berkowitz struggled to come up with the proper words to pay tribute to his longtime friend and “brother” at the station, Lee Sachs.
Emotional over the loss of Sachs, who passed away Wednesday, Dec. 19 from cancer, Berkowitz simply said, “It was a privilege to be friends with Lee Sachs.”
Berkowitz’s sentiments were shared by several members of the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Co. Sachs was laid to rest last Friday in a service that included full firefighter honors. He was 74.
“Lee Sachs was a special person to so many people in the fire department and in the community,” Berkowitz said. “He helped so many people in so many ways. While there will be people who may do his jobs, there will never be anyone who will replace him. Lee Sachs will be greatly missed.”
Sachs joined PVFC in 1976, when he was 38. He quickly immersed himself into every aspect of station life. During his 36 years of service, Sachs served as EMS lieutenant, president and vice president, among other positions. Overall, he responded to more than 10,000 calls.
PVFC Secretary Allen Roody has known Sachs for more than 30 years. He said Sachs dedicated himself fully to everything he did and worked to make those around him better people.
“Lee Sachs was a leader in every sense of the word,” Roody said. “He was so dedicated to the station, and he was there to fill any role, whether it be in the field, administration or the handling of financial issues.”
PVFC Vice President Sam Dansicker said that he was a “hot head” when he first joined the station in the 1970s and that Sachs was the one who taught him to be a mentsch.
“Lee was just everyone’s friend,” Dansicker said. “Lee was much more refined and showed me the proper way to handle myself in the field and in life. Those are lessons that will stay with me forever.”
In addition to his role at PVFC, Sachs was past president of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association and the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association. The lifelong Baltimore resident, who was active in many Jewish causes, was also a lawyer for 45 years, including the last 13 years as general counsel with David S. Brown Enterprises, Ltd. He also assisted PVFC with legal matters.
Sachs was recognized for his volunteer work both in an out of the fire department, which included receiving the Governor’s Volunteer and Service Award and the Pro Bono Service Award, legal profession awards for volunteerism.
“We will remember [Sachs] as a leader in the fire service, a champion for EMS and as a friend,” said National Volunteer Fire Council Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very difficult time. Lee will be deeply missed.”
Sachs is survived by his wife, Marjorie Goodman, daughters Melissa (Rabbi Elissa) Sachs-Kohen and Jessica (Ross) O’Donovan, son Nathan “Nick” (Hope) Sachs, brother Ray (late Frances) Sachs and grandchildren Josh O’Donovan, Allie O’Donovan, Manny Sachs-Kohen, Noa Rose Sachs-Kohen, Paige Sachs and Brooke Erin Sachs.
Sachs’ funeral came two weeks to the day after PVFC members joined together at Sol Levinson and Bros. Funeral Home to pay their respects to another longtime, respected member, Murray Rodman.
Rodman, who also received a funeral with full firefighter honors, lost a battle against cancer on Dec. 4. He was 70.
Rodman was a member of the firehouse for 42 years and was remembered for regularly sleeping overnight at the firehouse, taking both fire and medical calls.
“Murray Rodman was an invaluable member of this community for many years,” Berkowitz said. “He was always looking out in the best interest of others.”
Like Sachs, Rodman held many leadership roles at PVFC over the decades, including as EMS lieutenant, vice president, a member of the board of directors and even as one of the company’s two chaplains for several years. He was also one of Pikesville’s first paramedics in the early years of that program.
“Murray’s life was at the station,” Roody said. “He lived to help make the firehouse and the community a better place. He was also the type of person who would stop to talk to you and you wouldn’t even realize that you had been there with him for two hours.”
In addition to his work at the station, Rodman partnered in the mid-1970s with fellow PVFC life member David Bush to form the Pikesville Community Hall, Inc., which houses bingo to benefit area non-profits, including PVFC. Rodman managed the hall, located adjacent to the firehouse, until very recently.
“There was nothing he wouldn’t do for the station or his friends,” Dansicker said. “He was always the type of person who looked at the glass as half full.”
Rodman is survived by his children, Hillary Rodman, Scott (Courteney) Rodman, Stefanie (Jeff) Soeken and Greg (Joanna) Ruthenberg, his companion, Mollie Ruthenberg, sister Ina Ann Rodman, brother-in-law Maury Schwartz, sister-in-law Vicki Rodman, cousin Howard Rodman, nephew Heith Rodman, niece Jennifer Priddy and nine grandchildren.
A Tough Year
Sachs’ funeral marked the third longtime Jewish member to die from cancer in a year. Prior to Sachs and Rodman, PVFC gathered in May to pay their respects to Bill Levin. Levin served as an officer with the company for 24 years. In September, he was posthumously inducted into the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association’s Hall of Fame.
“We’re just numb right now,” Berkowitz said. “I’ve never been through a stretch like this in all my years of service at Pikesville. To lose three great men in such a short period of time — all to cancer — is unthinkable.”
Roody said that no one knows what to say to each other during this difficult time. The impact and legacy Sachs, Rodman and Levin left in the community will be felt for years to come.
“Much of what all three of these great men taught us could not be learned in a classroom or from a book,” Roody said. “They were all battlefield tested and answered every challenge placed in front of them.”
Dansicker said members have tried to get through this period by reflecting on the good times and continuing to build on the foundation each left for future generations of volunteer firefighters and EMS providers.
“None of them would want us to sit around and feel sad about their loss,” he said. “The biggest show of respect we can show them is to continue to go out there and help the citizens of Pikesville and Baltimore County.”
Contributions in Sachs, Rodman or Levin’s memory can be sent to the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Co., 40 E. Sudbrook Lane, Baltimore, MD. 21208