First Responder of Quarter and Year awarded in commissioners court

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
A tearful Marsha Sawders stands between Brown County Judge Paul Lilly and her brother, Timothy Alldredge, after Lilly presented her with a certificate honoring her late husband, Christopher, as First Responder of the Year.
Christopher Sawders

Lifeguard Ambulance emergency medical technician Iliea Bowden was named First Responder of the Quarter Monday morning in the Brown County Commissioners Court meeting, and Christopher Allen Sawders, a Brown County jailer who died last year from COVID, was named First Responder of the Year.

Brown County Judge Paul Lilly presented certificates to Bowden and to Sawders' widow, Marsha, who was accompanied by her brother, Timothy Alldredge. Christopher Sawders, a May resident, was 54 when he died.

Chaplains with the Brown County Office of Emergency Management Chaplains’ Service selected Bowden and Sawders for the awards. 

Ron Keener, pastor of North Lake Community Church and a volunteer chaplain, was accompanied by 14 church members at Monday's commissioners court meeting. The church presented Bowden and Marsha Sawders with $100 gift cards from United Supermarkets.

"As I said to our church yesterday, this is not political," Keener said. "This is about recognizing people who deserve to be loved and appreciated and valued.”

Lilly presented a certificate to an emotional Marsha Sawders and read a commendation from Brown County Sheriff Vance Hill's office. The commendation stated:

"Christopher Allen Sawders was hired on Nov. 29, 2919 as a jailer for the Brown County Sheriff's Office. Chris was a hard working and dedicated employee. In August 2021, Chris was exposed to the COVID-19 virus while performing his duties as a jailer. Chris ultimately lost his battled and passed on Sept. 24, 2001.

"Christopher Sawders was a good man and a true hero. He never had a second thought about the risks and dangers that he was exposed to as a result of his duties as a jailers. His first priority was always the safety of the inmates, co-workers and public. May his dedication to Brown County never be forgotten."

Becky Caffey, chief deputy for corrections at the sheriff's office, said Marsha Sawders "knows how I feel. We’ve become really close, really good friends. The service that our first responders do, our jailers, our deputies, EMS, fire, should never be forgotten and go unnoticed, because they are always on the front lines and I appreciate it. The sheriff appreciates it."

Iliea Bowden, First Responder of the Quarter

Iliea Bowden and Elaine Keener embrace after Bowden, a Lifeguard Ambulance emergency medical technician, was named the county's First Responder of the Quarter.
Lifeguard Ambulance emergency medical technician Iliea Bowden stands next to Brown County Judge Paul Lilly as Lilly reads a commendation naming Bowden First Responder of the Quarter.
Lifeguard Ambulance emergency medical technician Iliea Bowden (front, center) talks with Elaine Keener before the start of the Brown County Commissioners Court Monday morning.
Iliea Bowden (left) talks with Elaine Keener after Bowden was named the county's First Responder of the Quarter.

Lilly presented a certificate to Bowden and read a commendation from Keener.

The commendation said Bowden and her Lifeguard Ambulance partner, Bo Ross, had shown professionalism, compassion and sensitivity to Alice Burks, who was Keener's mother-in-law, on Sept. 7 and Sept 8. Burks died at age 97 on Sept. 8 while living in Ron and Elaine Keener's home at North Lake Brownwood.

Ross was initially nominated along with Bowden for the award, but Ross has moved away.

Both went "above and beyond" in their service to helping others in need, Keener's commendation states.

Elaine Keener said Bowden and Ross were the Lifeguard Ambulance crew who responded to the Keeners' home when Elaine's mother collapsed on Sept. 7. They were able to get Burks — who did not want to go to the hospital — revived back into bed.

"God brought two special angels," Elaine Keener said of the Lifeguard crew. "I have one hero and his name is Jesus, but he has a lot of heroic people following because of his example for us. That day these two were very special. Iliea went beyond to help me. 

“The next morning when my mother passed, God sent those same two people back. That touched me.”

Bowden said she and Ross were about to go off duty the morning of Sept. 8 when that second call came in about Burks.

“We were about to do shift change," Bowden said. "We got it just at the right time to go. The two of us were about to skedaddle. We heard the address and we (said) 'let’s go.'”