October 22, 2021

Son inspired his Homer firefighter father

Robert H. Bush was a shy, private man, but his son Nicolaas was his biggest inspiration and motivation, people who knew him said.

Bush, 49, of 16 Hannum Ave., who was three months into working for the Homer Fire Department, was pronounced dead Saturday morning at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center after he collapsed while taking a break during a training exercise.

Bush is originally from Truxton, where he grew up until his family moved to Homer in his late teenage years. Kara Ptak, his ex-wife, said he was very close with both his parents.

Bush’s inspiration to join the department came from his son, who was a member of the Warner Fire Department in Onondaga County and was thinking about joining the Homer Fire Department.

“I honestly believed that was his way of encouraging him (Nicolaas) to stay the course and follow through and in the process of doing that he really wanted to provide a service to the community,” Ptak said.

Homer Fire Chief Mahlon Irish said although Bush was shy, he made it a point to come into the station as much as he could and talk to some of the firefighters.

“He was eager to learn and he was doing whatever he could to better himself,” Irish said. “It’s (being a firefighter) just something he wanted to do.”

The father and son were so close they even graduated from Tompkins Cortland Community College together in 2019. Robert Bush got a business degree, while his son got a degree in computer support. Robert Bush also graduated with honors.

“That was one of his proudest moments,” Ptak said. “It’s something that all of his family was proud of him for doing.”

Robert Bush is survived by his son, Nicolaas Bush of Homer, parents Martha and Richard “Dick” Bush of Homer, brother Jeff Bush, ex-wife Kara Ptak and several nieces and nephews. He is pre-deceased by his brothers Brian and Timothy Bush.

The family will have a private service Saturday at the Truxton Cemetery, immediately followed by a celebration of life ceremony.

Irish said there will be a color guard at the funeral and Bush’s remains will be transported on Engine 501.