ELGIN-BEAVERDAM — Chuck McCray, fire chief for Elgin-Beaverdam Hose Co., did the research. Digging into the history books, he couldn't find where anyone had ever served as chaplain of the volunteer fire department.
That's no longer true.
And April 3 will be a date Lyn Wittmer is not likely to forget. That's the night he was asked to serve as the department's first-ever chaplain.
McCray, during the department’s annual recognition banquet, presented Wittmer with a new firefighting helmet — one that has a chaplain’s designation on the front.
“Elgin never had a spiritual leader in our department,” McCray said prior to telling Wittmer he would be honored if he would serve as chaplain. “I know people don't think about that. A lot of area departments have chaplains — they form a bond with firefighters.”
Wittmer was humbled as he accepted the helmet and the offer.
Wittmer has been a member of Elgin-Beaverdam Hose Co. since 1981. He has served as chief and held other offices. He previously took a leave of absence from the department so he could concentrate on another interest. He and his wife, Martha, are involved as youth leaders at the Valleyview Mennonite Church in Sparta Township.
“I'm actually honored and will take the position seriously,” said Wittmer, who added he will take additional training to serve as chaplain. “They (fire department members) can come to me for anything.”
McCray said the reason the department wanted a chaplain is because firefighters used to have a reputation as being people “who drank a lot and were just mouthy.”
It's not that way, McCray said.
“We have a lot of younger people and it's just not like that,” McCray said. “We have a place in fire service for the Lord. There are not a lot of firemen who don't pray when they go to a fire.”
McCray said just knowing everything the Wittmers do for their church made him the perfect choice.
“Lyn left the department for a while because he had to do what was in his heart,” McCray said. “I know his family, and he is devout. I know he is the one that anyone would have picked to be chaplain.”
The annual banquet is a time when the fire department honors its own members for their service and dedication.
“This is for the people we honor every year, who, without them, this department wouldn't exist,” McCray said. “Each and every one of you are a vital part of this department.”
McCray recognized Richard “Sparky” Warner for 35 years of service and Chris Eyler for five years of service.
See the Journal's Tuesday, April 6th edition for full story.