JOHNSVILLE — Thursday, March 4 at what was supposed to be a regular meeting and work night at the Perry Congress Joint Fire District (the Johnsville Fire Department), closed with a celebration and recognition of two members.
A significant milestone in their career was reached by firefighters Mark Peterson and Dale VanHorn, who each have served the community for 40 years.
Neither of the two men knew what was in store for the evening as all seemed like normal. A business meeting with the majority of the roster present. Firefighters went to work checking equipment, completing maintenance, and making sure everything was ready for the next call.
As the evening continued, firefighters slowly began to file into the community room with the exception of few. Family members came in the opposite side of the building to wait for the guests of honor. Peterson and VanHorn were ushered into a room of applause, smiles, and congratulations.
“Eighty years of knowledge on a fire department goes a long way,” said Johnsville Fire Chief Harlan Barrick, who led the men into the surprise gathering.
Looking around to the other firefighters, Chief Barrick acknowledged their commitment, dedication and experience.
“When they walk out the door, that’s a lot of knowledge that leaves with it. We have to learn from these guys before they go, and both of them are still running really strong.”
After a few brief comments and an opening from Chief Barrick, both VanHorn and Peterson addressed the room of their fire family.
“Cherish all your memories that you have here, good and bad,” said VanHorn. “There is something to be learned from all of them.”
“These people over here (our families), we wouldn’t be able to do this without their support,” VanHorn as his voice broke. “A lot of missed meals, and missed holidays, but if we didn’t come they would wonder what’s wrong with us. It’s been fun and I hope to do it for a while longer.”
Peterson motioned for his wife to come forward to the front of the room to stand with him as he took to the floor.
“I couldn’t have done it without my wife Janet. She’s an example of how your family will support you,” he said. “You don’t know how many missed meals. She would have a wonderful meal set out, and poof…gone. She tolerated me.”
“I so appreciate the rest of my family. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The group posed for a few photos and celebrated with a big cake.