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Navasota community recalls heroism of former fire chief

Posted at 7:21 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 20:21:31-05

NAVASOTA, Texas — Tinkerbell the dog is one of the most precious things belonging to John LeFlore, retired lawman and former justice of the peace in Grimes County.

She brings him comfort an love every day. The reason LeFlore has Tinkerbell in his life, is due to his longtime friend and retired Navasota fire chief Ronald Busse, who fed her while she was still a stray puppy running wild.

“When I picked her up, Ronald said 'pick her up and take her home,' LeFlore recalled. "I said, 'I don’t want no dog!' … but I picked her up, took her to the vet, got her spayed, and a free dog cost me $187. She’s been worth 20 times that ever since."

LeFlore knew the Busse couple, Ronald and Donna, for decades. LeFlore worked with Donna Busse within the JP office for almost 15 years. He said Donna was giving and kind, and Ronald was a light in a dark world. Miracles big and small, like that of Tinkerbell, were common with the former fire chief. The loss of Ronald and Donna in a recent house fire has shaken not only LeFlore but the Grimes County community.

"He was really jovial and had a great personality, did well with people," LeFlore said. "... He’s going to be missed.”

Ronald Busse started his career at the Navasota Fire Department in the early 1970s and served as chief from 1992 to 2003. It was he who was instrumental in acquiring the fire station that exists now, according to current fire department leadership.

Longtime residents of Grimes County have shared stories of how Busse helped save them and their loved ones from peril.

“We were just so grateful," said Russell Cushman, former Navasota local. "His expertise and gentleness ... I was afraid of pushing too hard on her chest, and he knew how to do it.”

Cushman recalled how, many years back, Chief Busse ran from the fire station down to a nearby business, where Cushman’s two-year-old daughter was choking on hard candy, turning blue from lack of oxygen. Busse performed abdominal compressions on the baby, ejecting the blockage.

"He probably saved her life," Cushman said. "It probably doesn’t sound very dramatic today, but at the time it was the scariest thing that ever happened to me.”

Funeral arrangements are still pending for Ronald and Donna. Fire marshals continue to investigate what caused the massive house fire that took the couple's lives early last Friday morning.