Founding member of volunteer rescue squad passes away

File Photo (WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Robert Leon Dunlap, a founding member of the Charleston County Volunteer Rescue Squad, passed away at his home Thursday evening. He was 83.

According to a statement released by Rescue Squad officials, Assistant Chief Dunlap spent 52 years with the organization and operated the fatality transport unit Rescue 4.

"Chief Dunlap never met a stranger, and always had a huge smile on his face 24 hours a day," the statement read. "He was a father- and grandfather-figure to many in the squad."

Dunlap was a founding member of the Charleston County Rescue Squad. He served 52 years. The Rescue Squad building was named in his honor. Flags flew at half-staff Friday.

"You can't find anyone that doesn't know Bob Dunlap in emergency services. Police, fire, EMS, coroner's office, rescue; everybody knows him. He was just in the background but everybody knew him," said Debbie Winn, division chief with Charleston County EMS.

Colleagues said Dunlap was always there, despite working sad and gruesome emergencies.

"You knew when we had traffic fatalities, you were going to see Mr. D. When we had fire-related fatalities, water-related fatalities, those were main areas we were going to interact with him," Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said.

"He was just in the background but everybody knew him," Winn said.

Dunlap drove Rescue 4, or what colleagues call "the body van." It wasn't a job that was flashy or desirable. Friends said it was the perfect job for Dunlap.

"Bob realized that was a mission that needed to be done, that not a lot of people like to do. He was passionate in it. He took care of his own patients as if they were his own family," EMS director Don Lundy said.

"Even at the worst times, he'd always pick us up," Winn said.

Dunlap's colleagues knew someone would fill his seat in rescue 4. But they said no one would take his place.

He was born and raised in Charleston, served at the Charleston Naval Base, and was an Army veteran. After his service, he worked as a manager at the Navy Exchange in Charleston and then became an equipment operator for the Charleston Shipyard.

During his 39 years with the shipyard, he was awarded the Naval Supply Center Employee of the Year award (1967), Supervisor of the Quarter award (1983), 12 Sustained Superior Performance awards, and 79 letters of appreciation. He was also awarded the Navy's Meritorious Civilian Award when he retired.

In 1962, Dunlap helped co-found the North Charleston Volunteer Rescue Association to fill a void left by the city discontinuing the use of volunteers. That organization later became known as the Charleston County Volunteer Rescue Squad. Dunlap received the Order of the Palmetto in 1998 and was named Squad Member of the Year in 1989 by the West Ashley Optimist Club.Affectionately known as "Mr. Bob," Dunlap is survived by his wife Gloria and his son Division Chief Bubba Dunlap.

A visitation is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Stuhr's Funeral Home on Greenridge Road in North Charleston.{}

The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the Advent Lutheran Church on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston. Burial will follow at Carolina Memorial Gardens.{}