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Memorial Service Today for Alhambra Fire Chief

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A memorial service will be held today for Fire Chief Robert G. Tolladay Jr., a 28-year veteran of the department who was credited with making a number of improvements in emergency training and equipment.

Tolladay died on Friday, his 51st birthday, in a plane crash near Placerville.

Tolladay and three companions were on their way to a weekend rafting trip on the American River when their Cessna 210 Centurion went down in a forest canyon. All four were found Saturday morning and pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

“We’re all very saddened and shocked,” said Alhambra Battalion Chief Jerome Pennington, who was a schoolmate of Tolladay’s at Woodrow Wilson High School in Los Angeles.

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Richard Ingram, an administrative battalion chief, will serve as acting chief until a permanent replacement is found. City Manager Kevin Murphy, who was on vacation this week, will handle arrangements for finding a new chief, Ingram said.

“This is a personal loss to all of us,” Ingram said. “I always considered (Tolladay) my friend. He had this open attitude about him. Always up about everything, always smiling.”

Ingram credited Tolladay with putting firefighters through a 120-hour Emergency Medical Training program, years before such training became mandatory under state law. When he was appointed chief in 1978, Tolladay saw to it that all equipment in the city’s fire stations was standardized, Ingram said.

Tolladay’s daughter, Cindy Schafte, said her father was an avid outdoorsman when he wasn’t attending to his 70-member department. “He was always sailing, flying or skiing,” said Schafte, of Vancouver, Wash.

Tolladay, a licensed pilot, was at the controls of the airplane when it crashed.

The other victims were identified as Diane Lorraine Prather, 40, of Norwalk; Suzanne Joyce Campbell, 43, of San Gabriel, and Arnold Jerold Grothe, 52, of Downey.

In addition to his daughter Schafte, Tolladay is survived by another daughter, Debbie, of Portland, Ore.; a son, Jeff, of Bartlesville, Okla.; his parents, Robert G. Tolladay Sr. and Cora Tolladay of Earp, Calif.; a sister, Katherine Richards of Temple City; and three grandsons.

The service will begin at 1 p.m. at Rose Hills Mortuary, Memorial Chapel, 3900 S. Workman Mill Road, Whittier. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be sent to the Alhambra Firefighters Assn.

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