Randall Crossen Sr.’s Service to Safety

Written by Cole Patterson, Photos by Jessica Stelzer

The year was 1975 when Randall Crossen Sr. first experienced the heat of firefighting. It was his father who took him to just off state Route 681, past county Route 69, where a brush fire broke out because of a woman burning trash.  

“He’s just one of those guys that you knew you could go out and talk to,” Albany Fire Chief Lee Bolen says. “I mean, he had seniority on the department, and he had a wealth of knowledge that I didn’t have, and he still does. But he was never better than anyone.” 

In 2022, Bolen nominated Crossen for the “EMT/Paramedic of the Year” award for the state of Ohio, recognizing Crossen for his service. 

Because Crossen won the state of Ohio Firefighter of the Year award, he went on into the running for the National Firefighter of the Year award through the VFW, and ended up winning.

In his almost 50 years of work as a firefighter and paramedic, Crossen has not shown any signs of burning out. In conversation with Southeast Ohio magazine, Crossen outlines some key moments from his childhood, career, and personal life. 

Q: Describe some key moments from your childhood.

“I was born in Nelsonville, in 1961. The first home I lived in was right here in town, in Albany. It’s now a coffee shop.” 

“I went to the high school, Alexander Hhigh Sschool. I graduated in May of 1980. When I got out of that, I got a job working at Kroger, worked there for about 12 and a half years.”  

“Then went to work at the Sherriff’s office, as a correction officer. Worked there for five years, and then I left there, I went up to Southeast Ohio regional jail, I worked there for five years.”  

“Then I left there in 2003 and went full-time working on the squad. I actually started working on the squad in 1985, and started officially on the fire service in 1983.” 

Q: Did you know you always wanted to be a firefighter?

“Growing up, that’s all I was ever wanted to do. When the TV show M*A*S*H came out, I always wanted to do that. I was like, man, frontline combat medic.” 

“My dad was a firefighter with Albany fire. I remember him coming home and smelling the smoke and having black stuff all over his face from where he had been fighting fires. I always thought that was cool. I thought damn man, I wanna really do that someday.”  

“I was out back, and all the neighborhood kids all played together, and dad came out the back door and yelled ‘get in the car.’ I went on a brush fire. I was 14, that was my very first fire I ever went on.”  

“Fighting that [brush fire] really set the hooks to getting me in, I was like I really want to do that job. I got my certification in 1983, then I really got into it.” 

Q: What are some setbacks you have faced in your life?

“When I was born, my feet were turned inward. So I had to wear braces for the first four years of my life. They told me I’d never be able to run, play sports, I’d never be able to do anything… I played basketball, I ran track, did all these things and never had any problems.” 

“I went to the army recruiting officer in Athens, I went to the armory there to talk to Sergeant Keller. Talked to him said I’d like to join; I’d like to be a frontline combat medic.” 

“But they talked to their physical guy for the military, and they told me not to show up, because they wouldn’t take me because of being born with a defect. I was really bummed out because I really wanted to do it.” 

“I’m not able to do like I used to. We had a couple of recent structure fires and the body lets me know you can’t do that job as well as you used to. I still enjoy doing the job, I still like going out and helping people and doing what I can.” 

Q: What other jobs do you work and how else are you involved in the community?

“I work for Athens County EMS full-time, I’ve been with them since 1985. I went full-time with them in 2003.” 

“I help run a cub scout day camp, I’ve been involved with that for the last six years. I help run a delivery service business. Also a part-time employee for Hughes Moquin Funeral Home. Been with them since 2013.” 

“I belong to a Masonic Lodge, been involved with it for several years. I also belong to York Rite Bodies in Athens. I’m an auxiliary member for the Albany VFW post in Albany and help with it quite a bit. Just recently became bingo chairman for the VFW.”

“I go to my grandkids sporting events and watch them do things and grow up. I play golf when I get the chance to. I’m involved with helping with the charity golf tournament itself.” 

Q: How did you feel when you won the national firefighter award?

“I had no idea an award like that even existed, let alone being nominated for that award. That was definitely a huge honor, and privilege to be awarded.”  

“I’ve been doing the job for a long time, I’ve never looked for any kind of recognition ever. I just do a job I love doing, I’ve been very humbled to receive that award.”

“I thought okay, I won the state, but I mean there’s a lot more people out there that probably a lot more deserving than I am, that should have won the national award.” 

“You got people in New York and California, and then Philadelphia and Chicago. I mean, all these are great big, huge cities that does probably a lot of heroic things to, that are just as deserving as I was to win the award.” 

“Somehow, they picked me to be the national award winner. I was deeply honored to win that also, and just blown away, just pretty much speechless when they told me that I won it.”