The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

March 14, 2014

Sparky statue honors late Enid Fire Department Chief Philip Clover

ENID, Okla. — A cool breeze blew through the plaza of Convention Hall Friday morning as more than 100 people gathered for the dedication of the Sparky the Fire Dog statue in memory of Chief Philip Clover.

Enid Fire Chief Joe Jackson and City Manager Eric Benson both spoke about their admiration for Clover, his friendship and the value of his work for the Enid community.

Jackson thanked those in attendance for coming to the ceremony.

“I am happy to so many friends of the family,” he said, “so many friends of the department.”

Jackson said his predecessor would have loved to see so many people come out to see Sparky. He called Clover a valuable member of the department, and his legacy was ensuring the department had a future.

“Each day I serve as chief, I appreciate his service even more,” he said.

Benson said he was honored to be part of the dedication ceremony. He asked those in attendance to read a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson included in a program for the ceremony.

The quote reads, “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Benson said Clover was a person who was admired by children, even when not dressed as Sparky.

“To be admired by children is a special gift,” the city manager said. “Phil was an irreplaceable gift to this community.”

Clover’s children, Jeff Berg and Jennifer Kisling, both spoke Friday.

Berg recalled a story from when his dad opened the first Sparky costume the department had purchased. He said his dad thought it would be fun to put the head of the costume on and go say hi to the dispatchers in the other room. However, the costume’s head was a little too large. Clover struck his head on the doorway.

Berg said he laughed at his dad about the incident, but the tables got turned when he wore the costume for a parade.

Berg said he and his dad were riding once around the Square in the bucket of the ladder truck. As they turned the first corner to pass under a light, he found out just how tall the head was.

Berg also said he remembers a time when Clover wore the Sparky costume to an event where a lot of children wanted their picture taken with the famous dog.

“When he took it off later, he said his cheeks hurt. I told him he didn’t need to smile for all the pictures because they couldn’t see him,” Berg said.

He said he realized Clover wasn’t smiling for the pictures. He was smiling because he was interacting with kids.

Kisling said her father was a big history buff, but enjoyed Enid history above all. She was able to share some of the special meanings behind the statue designed by Oklahoma artist Denise Rinkovsky.

The statue depicts Clover dressed as Sparky with a little girl, modeled after one of Clover’s granddaughters.

Sparky stands atop a Maltese Cross signifying the fire service, his right foot on the word fire to symbolize him still stamping out fire. The statue points to the corner, also a special place, Kisling said.

“He is pointing to the original site of the Station 1,” she said.

She said there was a 2011 penny mounted in the base of the statue, “as a special thing for the family.” The statue also features a clover on the back of Sparky’s leg to symbolize her father. Sparky also wears a chief’s badge.

“We’re very proud of this statue,” Kisling said, “and are thrilled it is in Enid in this area.”

She thanked all the donors who made the statue possible, as well as those with the department who helped.

“You’re our second family,” Kisling told the firefighters in attendance, “and I just want to thank you for being here today and the past two years.”

Ken Helms introduced Clover’s grandchildren, who released bunches of red balloons, before speaking.

He said fire prevention was a passion for Clover.

“He strongly believed we need to be just as concerned with preventing fires as fighting them,” Helms said. “Philip loved to share fire safety messages whenever or wherever he could.”

Helms explained Sparky the Fire Dog was created in 1951 for the National Fire Protection Association. He said Clover purchased the department’s first Sparky costume.

“He made many, many, many, many appearances as Sparky,” Helms said. “It was his passion and something he truly loved to do.”

Clover died of a heart attack Oct. 23, 2011, while spending time with family.

Clover began his fire service career on Sept. 16, 1977, as a firefighter. During his career, Clover also served as a driver, lieutenant, captain and assistant chief. He was appointed chief Feb. 1, 1996.

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