Monument honoring Morris firefighters installed at hall
By Katie Erdman
"There are a lot of ways to rate a city" commented Morris Mayor Sheldon Giese at the Fire Department Monument unveiling, "but if you want to rate the heart and soul of the city you can come right here."
Giese was one of several speakers at the unveiling ceremony Sunday for the Morris Fire Department Memorial Monument. He added that the phrase "Stand proud, stand tall" could be said about all present and past firemen.
Morris Fire Chief, Doug Storck, led the program by reviewing background for the monument and the process leading to the event. He explained that eight years ago hundreds of firemen gave their lives in the line of duty following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Since that day, firefighters and other volunteer personnel have been recognized for their service to cities, counties and their country.
In remembrance of them and all Morris Firefighters, the current department members launched a fundraising campaign for a monument. Over 170 donations were received from family, friends, businesses and organizations in the area. As a result the present monument was made possible.
Storck also recounted the history of the department. In 1880 a group of residents purchased a fire engine that included a pump to get water to fires. The efforts by these early firefighters was not very effective because they didn't practice the firefighting procedure. In the late 1880s this group disbanded and the current Morris Fire Department was organized in 1891.
During those 118 years there have been 212 men who have or currently serve on the Morris Fire Department. Each of their names is inscribed on the monument with room for more to be added. The firefighters have served from one to 44 years averaging up to 60 calls a year. Ten have served as Fire Chief over the 118 years. Four of these chiefs are still alive.
On behalf of the retired firefighters, Jerry Lesmeister said volunteer firefighters give up time with family, not only to answer calls but to attend meetings and trainings.
"When that pager goes off", Lesmeister explained, "we are all of a sudden supposed to be Superman."