Tommy Harold Dubberly, 59, passed away Saturday, June 3, 2023, at Optim Medical Center, apparently due to cardiac arrest. According to Walt Rogers, Tattnall County Director of Emergency Management, he had recently been diagnosed with walking pneumonia and was not feeling well prior to his passing. He fell unconscious at his home on Saturday, and EMT personnel were unable to revive him. He was a lifelong Glennville resident and is survived by his wife, Darlene, and son, Jason.
Ask anyone who worked with or knew him, and they would likely describe him as the epitome of a dedicated community servant. He began his service as a firefighter with the Glennville Volunteer Fire Department in the early 1980s while working for the Department of Corrections from where he retired after 20 years. It was in the Fire Department and Emergency Management Services where he made his mark, as he eventually became Deputy Director of Tattnall County Emergency Management and Assistant Fire Chief for the Tattnall County Fire Department.
Walt Rogers said on Tuesday that he’d known Tommy for as long as he could remember. He described him as dedicated, devoted, and one who cared for people. “He was one of the best personal responders I’ve ever known,” Rogers said, “and he did that for all of his adult life.”
Tommy was named Firefighter of the Year for the Glennville Fire Department in 1981. Adam Crisp wrote an article for The Glennville Sentinel entitled “Firemen Who are Fearless,” that pretty well summed up Tommy and his approach to service as a firefighter and first responder. In that article, Tommy remembered sitting down to eat dinner on a Thanksgiving Day when his pager went off just as he took a bite of food. “I went, and I just had to eat my dinner later,” he said.
It was the rewarding feeling of helping people that motivated him. “When you figure it out, the $100 per month we make, you pretty much break even with gas and other expenses,” he said. “But when you can pull someone from a wreck or help someone survive an accident, that’s what makes you want to keep doing this job.”
In that same article, Fire Chief Bobby Brannen stated that keeping good volunteers on the force was not a problem. “These men give it their all,” Bobby said. No matter how big or small an accident, they will be there. They do a job that most people wouldn’t. Tommy is an example of someone who gives their all because they love the work.”
Tommy was the Veterans of Foreign Wars Firefighter of the Year for 2021. VFW Quartermaster Ronnie Thomas made the presentation in May of 2021 and outlined his career, which began in 1985 in Glennville with Bobby Brannen as Glennville Fire Chief. Thomas noted he’d served the citizens of Glennville faithfully for 31 years before joining the Tattnall County Fire-Rescue where he was currently serving as Assistant Chief. He noted that Tommy was certified as a First Responder, Firefighter, Hazmat Awareness, Rescue Specialist, Crash Victim Extrication and Dosimeters. It was obvious that Tommy wore all the hats.
In a conversation with Bobby on Tuesday, he said that Tommy was a person he could always count on. Regardless of where he was or what time of the day or night, he would respond. He would be there and do what needed to be done whether it was dragging a water hose or pulling someone out of a vehicle. No job was too big or small, and he was always cordial; he never met a stranger.
That was the general consensus of those who knew Tommy on Monday morning. Few were surprised that he refused to go to the hospital to have the pneumonia treated. It was typical. He had work to do and he’d deal with the issue and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
It is safe to say that attitude is fairly typical of most first responders. They have to take care of others and oftentimes they don’t have time to take care of themselves. We are fortunate that individuals like Tommy Dubberly chose to serve.