TOW, Texas -- Dozens of first responders from across Llano County lead a procession to the Tow Community Center Thursday morning. Their trucks surround the pavilion as members of the Tow Volunteer Fire Department stand in silence as the father of Ronald Sanderson carries in his son's ashes.
The father of five's neighbors share stories about their friend with the 250 guest in attendance for the memorial.
"There were times when I would come home from work and my lawn would be mowed. And I knew that Ronald had mowed that yard," said Reverend Gary Sutton, Sanderson's neighbor.
"There's nothing he wouldn't do for anybody. If he had it, he would give it to you. He would help you even if he didn't know how. He would act like he did and help you mess it up just as good," laughed Tow Assistant Fire Chief Price Taylor.
Reverend Danny Meegan read a heartfelt note written by Sanderson's wife Tiffany that said: Our children and I will always remember him as being our hero. And we will carry him in our hearts and our memories.
He then read others from Sanderson's children. One note said: I'm gonna miss my daddy. I love my daddy very much.
As loved ones held on to each other, and parents to their children, Meegan offered words of comfort.
"Courage is an understatement that sent him into a home to save his family," the reverend said. "As Tiffany goes through life and as the kids grow up, and the question, 'did my dad love me?' It's written in stone."
Friday, July 5, Sanderson rushed into his burning home to save his wife and three children, not knowing they were running out the back door.
His sister, Raylene Nowels, is an EMT with Llano County EMS.
"I heard the address and it didn't take me long," said Nowels. "At first I didn't know it was him that was in there. And, you can only imagine the rest after that."
Sanderson's mother-in-law, Sue Moore said her daughter is still struggling. "Tiffany's like 'mom, why did he go in there?' she said, 'he's a firefighter, he knew better.' And I said 'Tiffany he wasn't a firefighter at the time. He was a father and a husband.'"
Sanderson's wife and father were presented with a flag, helmet and ax.
Then the somber crowd listened as the final tone out was made for Firefighter 161.
Sanderson's three young children released a dove, symbolizing their father's spirit soaring into Heaven.
Members of the tight knit community say Sanderson will be dearly missed, but now their focus is to take care of his family.
"Our main goal now is to get a house back on that property for her to live in so she can start her new normal," said Tow Fire Chief Josh Becker.
The Sanderson's want to rebuild a home on the land that was once filled with joy and love. They plan to put a memorial on their property as well, ensuring that Ronald Sanderson and his sacrifice are never forgotten.
The Sanderson home was not insured. Community members have set up the "Ronald Ray Sanderson Benefit" account at Llano National Bank. Donations can also be sent to the Pittsburg Baptist Church in Llano or to the Tow Fire Department at P.O. Box 112, Tow, Tx. 78672.