2012-04-19 / Local News

3 men, 160 years

Firefighters feted in Leland
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Some 125 firefighters, friends and relatives — including some who met all three descriptions — gathered Saturday at the Bluebird Restaurant in Leland to honor men who have spent much of their lives saving lives and property. Retiring from the Leland Volunteer Fire Department are Jim Flohe and Charlie Stander. Flohe, who at one time served as fire chief of Lake Leelanau, spent 53 years as a firefighter. Stander, a former fire chief in Leland, served as a firefighter for 55 years.

Also honored was former Leland chief J.P. Van Raalte, who served for 52 years before retiring a couple years ago. His father helped found the department in 1946.

The honorees said little, but there was no need as speakers told of their contributions. Stander, typical of the three honored, deflected praise toward other firefighters.

“I just want to thank all the firefighters, give them the credit. We couldn’t do nothing unless we had firemen,” Stander said.

Rep. Ray Franz delivered resolutions passed by the Michigan Legislature to all three retirees. Also a volunteer firefighter, Franz called them, collectively, “Mr. first on the scene to everything.” He spoke of the many family dinners and social events they missed while helping those in need.

Long-time Glen Arbor fire chief John DePuy recalled the $1 million “Thanksgiving fire” in 1995 that destroyed most of the Beachwalk complex. “About the second person involved in that was Charlie (Stander),” he said.

DePuy also recalled how local firefi ghters often put on mechanic’s hats to keep department vehicles on the road. Van Raalte, then owner of Van’s garage, was well-known for his ability to repair and even construct fire trucks.

So was Flohe, formerly a mechanic at Ted’s service station in Lake Leelanau. Flohe still runs a small mechanical repair business.


RETIRING Leland firefighters and former chiefs Charlie Stander, top left, and Jim Flohe were presented with plaques bearing their helmets at a tribute held Saturday at the Bluebird Restaurant. Left, former chief J.D. Van Raalte is shown with his son John after receiving a plaque with his helmet. Pictured above are, from left, Flohe, Stander and state Rep. Ray Franz (R-Onekama), also a firefi ghter. RETIRING Leland firefighters and former chiefs Charlie Stander, top left, and Jim Flohe were presented with plaques bearing their helmets at a tribute held Saturday at the Bluebird Restaurant. Left, former chief J.D. Van Raalte is shown with his son John after receiving a plaque with his helmet. Pictured above are, from left, Flohe, Stander and state Rep. Ray Franz (R-Onekama), also a firefi ghter. DePuy said one tanker “got so it was about all wire and twine. They didn’t even argue about where to tie the knot.”

Former Cedar chief Al Rosinski also provided a lighter side, recalling a barn fire requiring mutual aid from Leland. Stander and Flohe were atop the barn when the roof heated up. Flohe jumped off first, then directed Stander to the same place. Both landed without injury, but Stander wanted to know how Flohe avoided a pile of manure near the landing area.

“(Flohe) said, ‘Yea, I landed on it. But you must have dove into it,” said Rosinski.

He added, “These guys look old, but they’re not as old as they are because them missed a lot of birthday parties (while fighting fires).”

The highlight of the afternoon was a presentation of the firefighters’ hats, which had been sawed in half and mounted to plaques along with written tributes. They also received food baskets donated by Sisson’s Mainstreet market in Leland.

The tribute ended with the presentation of three remote-controlled fire truck toys, which with the blessings of Flohe, Stander and Van Raalte will be given to area children as Christmas presents.

Volunteer firefighter Ken Tietje organized the event, and served as master of ceremony.

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