WARSAW — More than 200 firefighters from the 16 Kosciusko County fire departments gathered for camaraderie, to enjoy a fish dinner, and honor the winner of the Service Award and Fireman of the Year, Thursday evening, Sept. 15. The annual Kosciusko County Fireman’s Association Fish Fry was held in the Home and Family Arts Building at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds.
Rodney Bray, Milford Fire Department, and Kevin Gelbaugh, Winona Lake Fire Department, received the Service Award and Fireman of the Year, respectively. Neither man was in attendance when the announcements were made. This was determined to be the 75th anniversary of the Kosciusko County Fireman’s Association.
The association also recognized two individuals as honorary association members: Sarah Lancaster, 911 assistant director, Kosciusko 911 Communications, and Kenn Kunze with 1-800 Boardup.
Bray has served on the Milford Fire Department since 1985 was nominated by his local department. In the nomination letter it stated it was “a natural thing for him to do following the footsteps of some of his family members. At one time his brother, uncle and grandfather were all active members of our department.” Bray took his first fire schooling in Leesburg where he made several lifelong friends. In 1997 he was elected treasurer, a position he still holds.
“He always does an outstanding job handling taxpayer’s money. He is a very professional person and takes great pride in being a member of this department. During his time on this department he has been a part of several positive changes. He’s also been instrumental in acquiring two new engines, tanker and rescue truck.”
The letter also stated Bray has shown dedication to the department by showing up for meetings, helping out at fund raisers and work details and is willing to show anyone what he has learned over the years. “He is willing to give you the shirt off his back if you needed it,” Roger Gelbaugh read. “We feel very lucky to have him as one of our own.”
The nomination letter for Kevin Gelbaugh, submitted by members of the Winona Lake Fire Department noted he has been on the department for 22 years. “He has served as lieutenant and is currently our assistant chief. He has always been very active in our department. He is our main coverage in the daytime, making a lot of calls by himself due to lack of man power during the day. He maintains our trucks making sure they are scheduled for pump and ladder testing every year he is also in charge of clearing our guys on trucks and been involved.” It was also noted Kevin Gelbaugh was instrumental in setting up the Mavis system for the county.
Several other awards were presented. These included the attendance award, received by the Mentone Fire Department, and announcement of the winners for the Kosciusko Fireman’s Association Bass Tournament. The bass tournament winners included: Josh Shepherd and Scott Backus, third place; Brent Fifer and Brandon Elliott, second place; Rick Hurley and Nathan Hurley, first place. Nathan Hurley also won the biggest bass trophy and Jack Kern an award for the smallest bass.
The $552 raised at the tournament went to the Hoosier Burn Camp. Mark Koopman, director, was present and gave a brief presentation. Brief remarks were also heard from the seven vendors who had displays. An additional $215 in the 50/50 drawing was donated to the camp.
John Grolich, district 5 chairman of the Indiana Volunteer Firefighter’s Association handed out numerous 10-24 year pins to members and 25 plus year pins to members. Grolich also explained what association dues were being used for: study on presumptive cancer law; grant retention and recruitment grants, and a retirement plan for volunteers. “We’re the ones who crawl out of bed at 2 a.m. in 25 degree weather to help our neighbors.”
The evening was underwritten by Hall and Marose Insurance, which footed the bill for the 250 pounds of fish served.