Chip and I met in 1983 at a bar in Clifton called Fibber McGees. He would tell everyone that he decided that night I was the girl for him after I beat him at the game of quarters. Soon after, Chip became a paramedic and in 1986, was hired by the fire department in the City of Covington. We were married later that same year. We became the original Chip and Jo and began our journey together rehabbing houses and moving our family, which consisted of 4 children, Hannah, Noah, Michaela, and Eli at that time. After our 4th house, we settled in Covington and decided that we would expand our family and adopted two young girls from Haiti, Joudly and Taimy. Like any family and any couple there are always ups and downs but we were committed to each other and the kids.
In the early years on the fire department Chip, showed no signs of Post Traumatic Stress. He was physically fit, slept well, and worked hard. He was a devoted husband, father and loved his career at the fire department. When he wasn't working at the fire department, he worked at Progressive Rehab, a physical therapy clinic owned by the 2 of us. He worked 24 hour shifts and followed that up with administrative work for the clinic. Overall, we felt like we had everything we could want and that our hard work provided well for all of us. Over the years at the fire department Chip, like his other brothers, responded to many difficult fires and accidents but the child fatalities, particularly disturbed him. He would briefly speak of them but other than that he did not make it known he was struggling with what he called "the demons". He later had difficulty sleeping which he and most fire fighters would attribute to the odd shift times and sleeping schedule at work. Chip is known by everyone that is close to him for falling asleep in his chair by his desk but never being able to sleep when he went to lay down in his bed. Still it was unknown to him and our family that this could be a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress.
Chip was also known for having a beer or 2 after working out during the week and he drank harder on the weekends but it was not until later in his career that he began to drink liquor more frequently. To the knowledge of our family he wasn't drinking to get drunk. It was the atmosphere in which we had grown up. Having a beer after a long day is not seen as wrong but over the years the beer had turned into liquor and the frequency increased without anyone knowing or understanding that he was using alcohol to help him sleep and manage his demons. After Chip retired in 2012, he started working for 1-800- Board Up and Teesdale Fenton. He began to detach from the family and worked long days as well as weekends.
On July 2, 2017 while at a family party, Chip drank excessively, even for him. He was emotional and exhausted. That night, after I went to bed, he had thoughts of suicide. He took himself to the ER at the University of Cincinnati. He later explained that he could not bear the thought of one of his “ducks” or fellow fireman finding him or transporting him to the hospital. I woke up for work the next day and did not think anything of him being gone. He responded to runs for his company at all hours of the day and night. At 7:25 AM while I was logging in to my computer at work, I received a call from him that he was in the psych unit at UC. He explained that he was ok but he was having suicidal thoughts and knew he needed help. He ended by telling me he loved me and that we would work this out.
Our first appointment with his psychiatrist gave us great hope. We were told he had a guardian angel, that most men who go to the length that Chip had gone to, rarely are able to stop themselves. We were both ready to conquer his demons. The next 2 months Chip followed through with every aspect of his treatment. He quit all alcohol. He was prescribed medications and took them regularly. He worked hard in therapy and completed all 6 weeks and was scheduled to begin his AA meetings. At this point in our lives, we had one final project we wanted to do together. Chip and Jo were going to tackle the ugliest property in one of the most lovable neighborhoods in Covington. After his attempted suicide, I naturally was against another project but he insisted that he needed this to help him move forward. He promised me that it would be great to work on another home together, just like when we were first married. I reluctantly agreed and we bought the “dump” at the end of August, September 6th was our 31st anniversary. He completed outpatient therapy on September 7th. We had our date night to celebrate both events on September 9th and by September 15th, he was gone.