Loris mourns its longtime employee and assistant fire chief

The Loris Volunteer Fire Department mourned its assistant chief Thursday. Rodney Hardee, 66, died of a massive brain bleed Monday night..

Firefighters transported Hardee's casket from Hardwick Funeral Home to the Loris Public Safety Building in a restored 1941 model fire truck.

Supporters lined Main Street to pay their respects, while flags flew at half-staff in the town and a black ribbon adorned the Public Safety Building.

Hardee was the town's longtime public works director, along with responding to thousands of fire calls in Loris over the past 40 years.

Whenever Loris's fire chief would respond to a serious fire, he says he wouldn't ask, where's Rodney, but, where's the front line?

"Because that's where I'm going to find Rodney," said chief Jerry Hardee. "It's not going to be back there taking a break or over to the side. The front line's where's he's going to be at, in the middle."

As the many pictures and newspaper clippings on display in the public safety building attest, friends say Rodney Hardee's devotion went beyond the town or its fire department.

"He was very dedicated to his church, very dedicated to his family, and to his grandchildren and his wife," Chief Hardee said.

Jerry Hardee says he's trying to not think about how the department will get by without his old friend. He says no one can really fill Rodney Hardee's shoes.

Though the fire chief shares the same last name as his late assistant chief, the two men were apparently not related, but in one sense, they were.

"Oh yeah, he was my brother. Fire department is family," said Chief Hardee. "So, we've lost our right arm and our left arm but we're going to try and grow it back and be strong."

Rodney Hardee leaves behind two sons, Cole and Ashley Hardee, who are Horry County police officers.

One of them recently returned from Kosovo, where he had served a tour of duty in the Army National Guard.

Hardee's funeral is set for 2 p.m. Friday at Loris High School with graveside service to follow at Oak Dale Baptist Church.