Association honors firefighters' 50 years of service
LAKE GENEVA Two volunteer firefighters, each with 50 years of service, were honored Saturday at the Walworth County Firefighters Association banquet at the Riviera Ballroom in Lake Geneva.
Ken Walter, a Bloomfield/Genoa City Fire & Rescue firefighter and emergency medical technician, joined the department in June of 1960.
Walter was the first E.M.T. with the department and was captain of the rescue squad and secretary of the fire department for at least 15 years.
He was a Gateway Technical College E.M.S. Instructor/Evaluator for about 15 years and was an original founding member of the Walworth County Rescue Association.
"He is an inspiring individual." Paul A. Yakowenko, President of the Walworth County Firefighters Association was quoted as saying in a news release. "He helped me join the Bloomfield Fire Department over 20 years ago, instilled in me the true meaning of volunteering and serving the public for free, and to help others in their time of need -- a true professional."
Gordon Paul "Snuffy" Smith joined the Lauderdale/LaGrange Fire Department in March of 1960.
His two sons and son-in-law followed him into the fire service, and Smith has proven his dedication through his actions. He is always willing to learn or teach when the need requires.
He is the epitome of a respectful firefighter. His devotion to the cause should not go unnoticed.
"What an honor it is to present these two icons of the fire service in Walworth County with their years of service awards" Yakowenko said. "These two gentlemen best represent a model that all of us in the fire service need to follow and continue for generations to come. It's not that often nowadays that you have someone who has been in the fire service for fifty years."
"The national average length of service for firefighters today is 7 years. So when you have two honorees, each with 50 years of service, it's really special," Yakowenko said.
Also recognized at the banquet was a Walworth County Sheriff's office Communications Officer Annie Ritchey.
Ritchey was presented with the Act of Heroism Award for her handling of a call in which a young child was home alone when his mother suffering a seizure.
He called 911, and with the dispatchers help, was able to direct the rescue squad to help his mother. Yakowenko said,
"I think this best defines what every Firefighter or E.M.S. personnel sitting in the room tonight is all about and what it should be all about: that is the genuine concept of helping someone who is in need of help. We are all about help." Yakowenko said.
The association was formed in October of 1931 by the Chief Surgeon of the Chicago Fire Department.
He met with the fire chiefs of various Walworth County fire departments at the time, and encouraged them to work together because one fire department cannot do it alone.
He urged them to get to know other department's personnel, equipment and train together so they would be more effective in fighting fires.
The association's member fire departments are made up of most of the fire departments in Walworth County, two from Kenosha County, and four from Racine County. This year, the association recognized two 50-year veterans of the fire service in Walworth County.