Claude Edward Rose Jr. – just call him Ed – is the epitome of public service to his community. Hands down. For almost 40 years this man has given his heart, his soul, his sweat and his knowledge to the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad (KVERS).
He began as a 15-year-old Explorer and today is a senior member of the squad, the leader of the Heavy & Technical Rescue Unit and a KVERS captain as of two weeks ago. “I have loved every second of it,” he says. “It’s been part of my entire adult life – helping the public, making our community better. It’s who I am and have always been.”
Rose is also a mentor to younger members of the squad. He shows up at accident scenes and will offer advice if asked. He helps with the squad’s training classes. In his free time, he’ll even drop by the squad’s headquarters on North Chilhowee Drive and hang out and chat with whoever is there.
There’s a method to his madness – it’s part of his mentoring strategy, passing along the values of the squad, answering questions and asking questions. He remembers how the men who were the senior guys “back then” mentored him and the other Explorers.
Deputy Chief John Whited has worked alongside Rose for 30 years. He says: “Ed is a longtime rescue squad member. He is someone you can always count on to be there for his fellow citizens. Ed is one of the most dedicated members I know. There is no job too big or too small for Ed to take on. I trust Ed Rose to always have the best for his community and the Rescue Squad at heart.”
This penchant for being there when someone needs help, his absolute unselfish dedication to public service and taking pride in all he does comes from his family, he says. “It’s the mindset – my elders were always helping one another and helping anyone needing help. It was just second nature with them. I grew up around people who literally would give until it hurt.”
Rose, 54, does have a full-time job. He’s a captain with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), where he has worked for 23 years, and is the commander of the Bomb Squad and a senior bomb technician. He also heads up the Property and Evidence Division and is KCSO’s emergency management representative.
Does he have a hobby? “This right here, the rescue squad; this is my hobby.”
His primary role with KVERS is leading Heavy & Technical Rescue. The heavy rescue truck is the squad’s largest vehicle, valued at approximately $1 million with its tools and rescue equipment on board. Thankfully, it rarely leaves the garage. The team responds to trenches that cave in, structural collapses, accidents involving large, complicated heavy machinery, accidents of large trucks, and concrete collapses. It takes knowledge of how to operate big industrial tools, how to rig the ropes for rescues and how to get each step planned to make an effective rescue.
“It’s work that we call high risk/low occurrence, but when it does happen you better believe that you have to know what you are doing or you can get killed,” he explains. “Or you can kill the person or the people you are trying to rescue.”
Does he ever get nervous? “Yep! Being a little nervous will help keep you alive.”
Early in his career, Rose was a firefighter for Rural Metro; an EMT who worked on the ambulances; and an officer at the KCSO Detention Center, and while there also managed its pharmacy. He worked in the Rural Metro fleet shop for a while and repaired fire trucks and ambulances.
He and Nancy, his wife of 27 years, live on a 12.5-acre “mini farm” in Riverdale out near Kodak. Rose is a graduate of Carter High School, class of 1982, and he’s never gotten too far from the community he serves. His son, Cody, is 31, and he’s an aircraft mechanic for the KCSO Aviation Unit at Knoxville Downtown Island Airport (aka Island Home Airport).
In his 40 years with the squad, he says, he’s developed a knack for “figuring things out. I tell these young squad members to keep things simple. A lot of what we do can be unconventional. The training toolbox gives you the basic training and teaches skill sets. But sometimes you have to use tools that are not in the box. You can’t learn some of the things we have to do in a training class.”
Rose talks about the history of the squad, showing a visitor pictures, the old white hats and uniforms they once wore, trophies and plaques and talks about the old-timers like Kostco McGhee, one of the squad’s founders in 1956. He doesn’t say this, but it seems as if he treats this squad HQ building as a shrine of sorts. His words have great feeling behind them.
And he begins thinking back 40 years ago when this all started for him. “The Explorers back then dominated the squad. The squad members were like parents to us. We had to keep our grades up. Behave.
“There were five or six of us who were best buddies, and this was our home in the summers,” he says. “We’d sit out front on an old bench, and the rescue squad became part of who we all were.”
(Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals. Watch for this feature every Monday on KnoxTNToday.com and if you have suggestions about a first responder/emergency-services professional we should feature, email Tom King.)