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Skaggs, firefighter hall of fame member, dies

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By Calen McKinney

 

She was the first female and the first non-firefighter to receive the honor.

And those who knew her say she was a hard worker, loved to laugh and would do anything to help others.

Jamia Skaggs, who was inducted into the Kentucky Firefighters Association Hall of Fame about three weeks ago, died on Sunday after a yearlong battle with breast cancer. She was 56.

Skaggs' funeral is today at 11 a.m. at Parrott & Ramsey Funeral Home.

Skaggs served as office coordinator for the State Fire Rescue Training Area 14 center in Campbellsville for about 20 years.

Charlie Shaw, who will serve as an honorary pallbearer at Skaggs' funeral tomorrow, worked with her for all of those years.

"She was always my right hand ... " Shaw, training coordinator at the center, said. "You wouldn't see one of us without the other."

Skaggs was diagnosed with breast cancer last September, Shaw said, and wasn't able to work afterward.

"I've missed her the whole year in the office," he said. "But she's in a better place."

Shaw said being the first female and only non-firefighter hall of fame member is quite an honor.

When Skaggs was inducted on Aug. 6, it was said that she graduated from Taylor County High School in 1974 and later Campbellsville College, where she completed a bachelor's degree in business administration with a minor in secretarial science.

Skaggs began her first job with emergency services in 1979 when she worked at Lake Cumberland EMS.

She then worked for the Taylor County Sheriff's Office from August 1989 to December 1993.

Taylor County Jailer Hack Marcum, who will be a pallbearer at Skaggs' funeral, said she worked at the office when he was Taylor County's sheriff. He said she was a very dedicated employee.

"Just a good person to be around," he said. "She'll be greatly missed in the community."

Marcum said he kept in contact with Skaggs after they both went on to work at other businesses. He said he saw her about three months ago.

"She was a pleasant person to be around," he said. "She found the good in everybody."

Marcum said he grew up around Skaggs' family and knows them well.

"She always had a real good upbeat attitude," he said. "She never seemed to be down. She had a good outlook on life."

After working at the sheriff's office, Skaggs began her job at the fire rescue area training center in March 1994.

"Few people could pick Jamia Skaggs out of a crowd, but nearly everyone in the KFA knew her name and knew of her accomplishments," it was said when she was inducted into the hall of fame.

In response to being inducted, Skaggs said the honor was overwhelming. She said her service with the KFA is very special to her, and she made many friends over her years of service.

"The greatest of all is the friends I have made within KFA and the fire service in Kentucky," she said. "You are the best."

Rick Games, a former president of the KFA and one of those who helped induct Skaggs into the hall of fame, said she received the honor because of her behind the scenes work.

"She just did so much for the benefit of the entire fire service in the commonwealth," he said.

Games said Skaggs was one of those people who don't want credit for their work, but people often didn't realize just how much she did.

"She is greatly going to be missed," he said. "We're all really hurting over it."

Skaggs played a vital role in state fire school and exhibit show for 19 years. She also helped with state firefighter Olympics, the firefighter memorial and many other special events.

Skaggs was involved with promoting membership in the KFA in area 14 and throughout the state. She started the Kentucky Firefighters Association Facebook group, which now has more than 700 members.

Skaggs was instrumental in planning the memorial for the late Charles "Sparky" Sparks at the rescue training center.

Shaw said he and Skaggs often talked about ideas for state and national programs.

"And then Jamia would make them a reality," he said.

In her younger years, Shaw said, Skaggs showed pigs at the state fair. She also enjoyed sewing, cooking and farming.

But one of her favorite hobbies, Shaw said, was going to yard sales. He said any time the two were on a trip and saw one, they would have to stop.

"She would look for hours and hours."

Skaggs had a great personality, but knew when it was time to be serious.

"Just fun and loved life," he said. "And would always think about someone else above her self."

Shaw said Skaggs enjoyed going to homecoming at Campbellsville University and seeing her old friends.

He said he saw Skaggs on Sunday morning and often took her cards and emails he received that wished her well. He said he has received calls from Tennessee and Michigan fire personnel since word of Skaggs' death has been passed through the KFA organization.

Bill Chandler, who will also serve as a pallbearer, said Skaggs worked for him for a few years at Chandler's Office Supply when she was a teenager.

"Jamia was a good natured person," he said. "She was kind of quiet, but at the same time she was fun to be around."

Chandler said an older man who used to live near Skaggs in the Bengal community would often come to Chandler's and wait until she got off work.

"Jamia was always kind enough to give him a ride back home," he said.

Chandler said he hadn't seen Skaggs lately, but he remembers seeing her with Shaw at his business a few years ago. He said she still liked to joke around.

"In front of Charlie, she would say, 'This is the best place I ever worked.'"

Skaggs was the daughter of the late James William Skaggs and Dalice "Bit" Hearon Skaggs. She was a member of Mt. Roberts Baptist Church.

Survivors include a sister and brother-in-law, Deborah S. and Terry Mardis of Campbellsville, and two nephews, Brian Mardis and his wife, Dawn, and Michael Mardis and his wife, Lisa, of Campbellsville.

The Rev. Ken Forman will officiate Skaggs' funeral. Burial will be in Campbellsville Memorial Gardens.

Fire rescue training staff members, Kentucky Fire Commission, Kentucky Firefighters Association and local law enforcement and EMS personnel will serve as honorary pallbearers.

The family requests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of Gideon Bibles. Donations can be made at the funeral home.

An obituary will be published in an upcoming issue.