CLYMER, N.Y. — Hundreds of Clymer residents gathered Sunday to honor their former fire chief, neighbor and friend.

After 36 consecutive years as leader of the Clymer Volunteer Fire Department, Merton “Butch” Querreveld has retired from his position.

To show appreciation and respect for Querreveld’s longtime service, a public recognition ceremony was held in the Clymer Central School student performance center.

“This is a celebration of volunteerism,” said event emcee Barry Neckers, assistant fire chief of the department. “Butch has done so much for our community, fire department and things many people don’t even know about.”

Querreveld, 80, was elected as chief in 1973. Since then, he has responded to more than 4,000 calls, given more than 20,000 hours of his time, and has seen 175 different members come through the department.

“We have a lot of good memories,” said fire department President Dale Willink, who gave a slide-show presentation on Querreveld’s career. “There have been many experiences, some good and some bad. But, Butch has given a lot of good leadership in his 36 years.”

Querreveld became a member of the fire department when he was 25 years old. He has responded to every type of call, including floods, house explosions, winter storm damage, business fires and automobile accidents.

He has also been instrumental in obtaining grants for the department, specifically to help replace old equipment and emergency vehicles.

“In Clymer, I have witnessed a true family relationship,” said Director of Emergency Services for Chautauqua County Julius Leone, who was one of more than a dozen people to speak Sunday on Querreveld’s behalf. “That doesn’t happen by accident. It only happens because of the solid leadership. It’s a phenomenal feat and I take my hat off to you.”

One of the last to address Querreveld was Clymer’s new chief, Brian Bensink.

“You’re going to be one tough act to follow,” Bensink said.

Bensink told audience members he joined the fire department right after high school and was inspired to do so by Querreveld.

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