My Firefighting Father

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The volunteer fire department of Lodi, Wisconsin circa 1960.

Coming across this photo the other day took me back to my tiny hometown of Lodi, Wisconsin and reinforced memories of one of the basic values my parents have always practiced: getting involved in the community.

As the picture suggests, my dad, standing in the second row, fifth from the right, was a volunteer fireman. For many years he served on a voluntary basis with this group of men – in those days they were all men – with whom he became very close.

My parents, fortunately, continue to be in good health and young for their age, but it’s still fun to see my dad in this photo looking even more youthful, vibrant, and handsome in his early 20s.

I don’t remember my parents ever lecturing us on community involvement or waxing philosophical on civic engagement. But both my mom and my dad were highly active volunteers in a variety of civic and church pursuits.

In addition to being a firefighter, for example, my dad at various times was a Cub scout leader, youth BB-gun team coach (his team went to nationals!), volunteer at the summer fair, president of the parish council at our church, and much, much more. My mom was similarly involved, especially in church activities.

My dad moved to northern Wisconsin some 15 years ago and he continues to stay highly involved in his community. He even fought fires in the North Woods for several years.

Many of the men in this old photo are now gone but the Lodi volunteer fire department is still going strong. Women have been serving on the department for many years now and the trucks and equipment are more sophisticated as things have evolved since my dad’s time there.

I happened to gain much more insight into my dad (and my hometown) after I read one of the best books I’ve come across in the last decade, Population 485 by my fellow small town Wisconsinite Michael Perry. This New York Times bestseller is a wonderful read about small town life in general and volunteer fire departments in particular.

And yes, my dad read the book and loved it.

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