Between the Alarms Fall 2016

Between the Alarms Fall 2016

Published by GRFF Building Corp.

Building Corp. President

On behalf of the Grand Rapids Firefighters Building Corporation, Here is the 2016 Christmas Edition of the “Between Alarms”. Once again, thanks to Dave Olivier for his assistance and his effort to get these newsletters out.

I’m very pleased that we are able to offer the Grand Rapids Firefighter’s Building Corporation insurance supplement this year and will send out checks in the amount of $500 each to the remaining pre-1989 retirees/spouses. The total assistance last year was $32,500, divided between 65 retired members or living spouses. This year is slightly less as some have passed. As a recap as to why this group receives our attention; after 1989 our retirees receive a supplement toward their insurance through our Local’s work and the negotiation they did at that time. We are excited to be able to help again and hope to do so in the years to come. Assuming that we continue to be fiscally sound, we hope to add more recent retirement years as attrition lowers the current numbers. Last year we made the decision to also help the active members by gifting $500 toward each Fire Station’s House fund. This year, we unanimously decided to do it again. With the increasing costs and staffing still lower, it has been difficult to make ends meet. Expect a check sometime mid-December.

Our Treasurer Tony Rohloff reports that we have a nice “rainy day” cash reserve. We will continue to work hard to be good stewards of your assets. The complex is totally leased and we have great tenants with long term leases and a good outlook on their continued tenancy with us.

The Hall Manager is John Frederick (616-485-1172). He will answer any questions regarding our “Hall” which includes your event reservation and rental.

My fellow Directors this year are VP/Sec Dave Noorman, Treasurer Tony Rohloff, Larry Hayden, Local 366 Rep Todd Vanderwall, Scott Gray, and Jim McIntyre. As a recap here also, There are 7 Directors on the Board with one being appointed by our Local and the remaining 6 elected (at the same time as the Union election) to a 3 year term with 2 being up for grabs each year. The positions of President, VP/Secretary, and Treasurer are elected internally each year. I have had the pleasure and honor to have served you since 1995 and as President since 1996. It has been a highlight of my career and I truly appreciate the opportunity and hope we have lived up to your expectations. Our Board has been made up of a very strong core for many years and have dealt with many many building related issues, i.e tenants, vacancies, build-outs, remodels, expansion of our Union Hall and offices, and an extensive land lease venture with Walgreens that has been the primary source for a lot of the financial assistance that we’ve provided over the years.

Please, as always, let us know if you have any questions, concerns, suggestions, and even if there is something good that you’d like to pass along. See our Website at

Please mark your calendars. The next Building Corp. Meeting/Party is Wednesday, April 26th. (Always the 4th Wednesday in April). A-shift is on duty (A-10). The meeting is at 1930 hours and dinner immediately following the typically brief meeting. As a reminder, this is all free and open to all members (only), active and retirees. To all new members, ask around, you’ll be quite happy that you stop by. You’re also welcome to come on down earlier to visit.

Thanks, “Smitty”
President Jeffrey G. Smith

Return of the 1937 Tiller!!

On Saturday Sept. 24th EO Dan Nelson arrived at the GRFD Training center with the 1937 American LaFrance Tiller. Dan transports heavy equipment for Great Lakes Heavy Haul on his days off, and he donated his time, and his employer donated the truck, trailer and fuel to transport the Tiller truck back from Ohio.

A little history of the Tiller:

Due to the Great Depression, the Grand Rapids Fire Department was unable to purchase new equipment from 1928 to 1937, when urgent necessity dictated the ordering of two new pumpers and an aerial truck were approved. The American LaFrance company of Elmira, NY, manufactured everything from the pumps to the motors to the ladders on its equipment, so the new machines arrived fully equipped in the fall of 1937. One pumper was assigned to Engine 6 at Grandville and Ellsworth (right across from present-day Founders), and the other engine and the 85′ aerial truck were assigned to old No. 4 Engine House at Crescent and Bond, currently the parking ramp under the Calder Plaza.

No. 4’s closed the following year, and the aerial truck spent most of its time in service running as Truck 3 from the old station at Front & Second. For a short time in the mid-1940’s, it ran as Truck 1, moving back to Truck 3 in 1947. Father Den’s dad, Bud Morrow, was the equipment operator on that truck in 1955-57. (He drove the front end, or the tractor and a tillerman drove the rear, or the trailer.) Fr. Den’s uncle, Bernard Tursky (Fr. Den’s Mom’s brother) served as a lieutenant on that truck when it ran again as Truck 1 in the mid-1960’s for a couple years. The other family connection Fr. Den has is that his grandfather, Walter Tursky (Fr. Den’s Mom’s dad), was a fire fighter at old No. 4’s in the mid-1920’s, although he was no longer in the Department when the new 1937 equipment was ordered.

Fr. Den found out a couple months ago that the truck, which was sold by Grand Rapids to an antique dealer in 1976, was for sale by its current owner in Ohio. Chief Roger M. Peterson, Jr., of the North Bloomfield, OH, Fire Department, just a little east of Cleveland, had purchased it several years ago. Contacts were made, a price was set, and Fr. Den was able to locate an anonymous donor to come up with the asking price. Monday afternoon. September 12, the Museum Collections Committee approved acceptance of the gift. Chief Lehman has reserved a place to house it at the Training Center, seeing it as something that can help impart a sense of Department tradition to the recruit classes and all of our members. We’re looking forward to getting it back on the streets of Grand Rapids once again for purposes of “shock and awe”! We will be assembling as many as we can find to accompany it for display purposes or parades. Fr. Den, Retired Captain Bob Imhoff, Dave DeBruyn of the Museum staff, and EO Dan Nelson have really been key players in this whole effort.

The seller says that our contact was an answer to prayer for him. He’s enjoyed having the truck, but is downsizing due to family health crises. He was hoping the truck would get back where it belongs. It still proudly bears the lettering and insignia of the Grand Rapids Fire Department. He is very, very happy to know that it’s coming home.

Matt Keusch

Work being done is on the fuel system, electrical system and overall maintenance. New batteries, 15 gallons of nondetergent oil, various lubricants and cleaning supplies will be obtained using the donated funds. A few G.R.F.D firefighters and retired volunteers are planning to work throughout the winter in hopes of getting the “old gal” back on the road for parades and other events. An operational and maintenance manual (copy) was obtained from the American LaFrance Museum in North Charleston, South Carolina which provides some interesting operating procedures we were not aware of. The manual also gives information about care and maintenance of the wooden ladders (I think we would like to have the new rookies try to raise the 55 foot extension ladder (with tormenters) and see if they could figure out how to get the 22 foot roof ladder out of the ladder rack (since the rear steering post goes through the center of it).

We have had a good response from all G.R.F.D. firefighters and many retirees. We have a donation of a siren/light that appears to match the original one that came with the truck (obtained by Matt Keusch). We have received help from Roger Engvall (formerly with West Shore in Allendale and still involved in fire apparatus old and new, even now) and he has offered to locate any items we might be missing for the truck. The entire Museum staff along with Dave DeBruyn and Dale Robertson (director) have been enthused about the whole project.

Also, without the support of Fire Chief Lehman the entire project would have been impossible. Thanks, Chief, for your interest in preserving a big piece of Grand Rapids Fire Department History!

Bob Imhoff

What a difference a day can make. Yesterday I would have been lamenting over the fact that we must fight the lame duck republicans, and today I can write of our triumph over the lame duck and a billionaire power grabber who has never worked a day in his life. As well as his entitled wife who will be heading up our national education system, who once stated “the problem with Michigan workers is they are paid too much”. Today, young, old, active, and retired stood together and showed that mess with us, and we will be here!

So next I scratch a touchy surface. Voting. Now let me say, the IAFF got it right back in 1993-ish with the “Who’s side are you on?” campaign, a stance we carry on today. Most people think “oh Fire Fighters, Democrats….. write em off” NOPE! In fact the makeup of the IAFF is 46% Republican, 42% Democrat and percentage of other. So, Al Whitehead’s “Who’s side are you on?” says if you stand with us we’ll stand with you, no matter the letter in front of your name, and it has worked! Nationally, State wide (i.e. Cancer Presumption, saving 312, heart and lung presumption, and today with stopping healthcare robbing) and locally, with the first totally friendly commission since 1984; a non-312 contract, New Chief, Fair MERC settlement are just examples. So if you vote Republican call and thank them for pulling the nose up, but also not all fire fighters are democrats, I bet they’ll be surprised! If you are a democrat, call them as well for standing and trying to compromise against a wall.

However! This is no time to set and say our work is done. Our work is never done! We must always engage our politicians, not only in bad times, be there for them in photo ops, information gathering, and just being the friends to them that they are to us. Will we disagree with some decisions, of course, but that is for debate. If you don’t talk, support, and be involved, this will result in the unexpected nuclear bomb.

For the first time in 25 yrs on the job I am excited in the direction of this department. Now we must see it through. We must be there at the state for the attacks on our benefits, and locally to back our chief as he tries to grow our department!

And most of all we must be there for each other, because even if things are getting better, we still see a lot. Sadly suicide rates in the fire service are 6 times the national average. We see more than the avg. bear, we are the stop gap of society, it sucks, but it is what it is. Watch each other, talk to each other, and you’re not a wimp to use the EAP. If we are truly a family, which we are, the only service in the city that can call ourselves that, then be aware.

This is probably my last letter as your President. I am a man of my word and said I would run for Pres. one last year. So here we are. Yes I will be involved, just on the side lines. I am not a “Me” person, I have had the great honor of serving with great people. In that time we saved jobs, gave early retirement, saved current employees from RHSA, stopped outside lateral hiring, Stopped the stripping of 312 (Thanks Bill Smith), fixed sold out retirement benefits from 87.5% to 90% (Thanks Tony Beurkens Sr.), A MERC settlement as opposed to a long fight, we fixed layoffs and recalls, we embolden Part 74 (Thank you Richie Clark) to demand more of us, upped our multiplier. We gained a COLA above any other bargaining unit in this city! And we continue to work for the betterment of our members and not just pass them by, these are just a few! Today was an example of that!

So in closing I plan on staying around. And in closing I say Get involved! You never know where you’ll be in 25 yrs, and what GOOD you can achieve.

Take care and I have been proud to serve you at all the levels in the last 23+ years.

Joe Dubay Local 366

A note from Chief John Lehman

My wife Becky and daughter Anya and I are settling into our new home in Ada. We have found Michigan to not only have a tremendous amount of natural beauty but a great deal of Pride in the State. I can safely say I have never seen a person from Illinois with a tattoo of the the state on their body. I see that and other symbolism everywhere I look here. I have lived my whole life in Illinois and spent over 30 years in the fire service in a similar size city and department. I can say that the Grand Rapids Fire Department has obviously been an organization which has a rock solid foundation. That foundation of tradition and dedication, hard work and integrity, coupled with pride and duty are exhibited daily by the men and women of the GRFD. I would like to say a special thank you to all of those who helped lay the foundation for this organization and for all of our members who help to keep it solid today. As we approach the Christmas Holiday I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year . I look forward to making new acquaintances with those who have retired. Please feel free to drop in if your in the area of LaGrave.

Fraternally, Chief Lehman

Hello All – Actives and Retirees,

Congratulations to Fire Chief John Lehman on his appointment to lead the GRFD into the future. Thank you for attending our October Breakfast Meeting.

Congratulations to the New Retirees since the last “BETWEEN ALARMS” (Spring 2016)! We would like to Welcome to the Grand Rapids Fire Fighters Retirees Association: Dan Overbeek – Retired Feb. 29 Scott DeVoll – Retired July 5 Stanley Burns – Retired July 22 Jeff Steere – Retired Aug. 22 June (Beld) Faber – Retired Nov. 2016 Best of Luck and Good Health in your retirement years. We meet every May and October for breakfast made by Chef Gordy Faber & team with information passed on of what is happening. Please feel free to join us (this invitation is open to spouses as well) and spend time with old friends, the next meeting is May 9, 2017 at 9:30 AM at the Union Hall.

The Retirees General Information/Guideline Handbook available to the membership has now been passed on to the Union for funding the printing process. It will cover all the different programs you may encounter as you age with specific contact resources to assist you. As with any organization as time passes issues change personally and otherwise, we hope the handbook will assist all and is a flexible working document. It is available at the breakfast meetings as well as on-line by contacting me at

**Lest we not forget the passing of members and spouses since the last issue of BETWEEN ALARMS God Bless Them and They Will Not Be Forgotten It is with a heavy heart that we must say until we meet again to our Brother David Knisley who passed away before his time, “YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN ” – Retired May 8, 2016. We wish only the best for his family and if any assistance is needed do not hesitate to contact us.

Lt. David Knisley, FF. Paul Koehn, Cpt. Richard Scanlon, EO Don Marsh, Lt. Al Elzinga, FF Judson Kovalak, Ms. Marsha Ball, Ms, Leatrice Mollien,Ms. Virginia DeRyke, Ms. Joan Stoddard, EO Fred Ryskamp

GRFD Retirees Plaques?

We have been informed that some of our newer retirees (2012-2014? – 2015 & 2016 are confirmed) have not received these awards. With the assistance of Ch. Lehman and the Union we are in the process of getting this item to those who have not received theirs. If you did not receive yours contact me.

Social Security

In 2017 the Feds have determined that a 0.3% Cola increase is to be afforded, This is only the tip of the iceberg due to the fact that Medicare Premiums are increasing. Plan and be prepared, and for those in the 13th Check Program, it appears there will not be one issued in 2017.

Thank you to the GRFF Bldg. Corp. for assisting pre-1989 Retirees with their financial/health issues as well as assisting our organization with our meetings. As we should all know the ideals and origin of the Building Corp. was to be there to assist our retirees as we continue in life. THANK YOU.

Again a BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF THOSE WHO KEEP US INFORMED – GRFD Liaison M. Keusch – GRFF BLDG. CORP. – GRFF-IAFF LOCAL 366 – GRFFRA – MPFFU – GR POLICE/FIRE PENSION BOARD —- also those INDIVIDUALS (and you know who you are) who stay in touch.

This past summer with the assistance of many the “LADY IN RED” our GRFD 1937 Tiller Truck that remained in service (as a back-up) until 1976 returned to Grand Rapids. It can be seen on-line at U-tube for those interested. It was trailered home by EO Dan Nelson and is now being processed and prepared for parades in the future. There has been a Fire Truck Fund established to maintain the equipment in storage (the 37 Pumper and the 37 Tiller). This funding is dedicated and earmarked “Fire Truck Fund” by the Museum. An anonymous individual has made a commitment to match funding up to $1500.00 – Thank You from our organization. If you can assist with do not hesitate to contact Bob Imhoff. If you would like to make a donation to the fund send checks (note on your check “FIRE TRUCK FUND”) to: Grand Rapids Public Museum ATTN: Ms. Katie Ryan 272 Pearl NW Grand Rapids MI 49504.

Also for anyone active or retired who would like to assist at the Fire House display in the GR Museum contact Sec. David Tiesma for more information…. or call 457-3054.

Retirees Monthly Breakfast get togethers

South: 1st Tuesday of each month at 8:30 AM Russ’s Restaurant – 28th/ Byron Center North: 1st Tuesday of each month at 9:00 AM New Beginnings Restaurant – Northland Dr./ Plainfield NE.

If you are not receiving email updates it is because we do not have a current email address for you. Please let us know (either myself, David VanderWall, David Tiesma, Roger Rohloff) so we can keep you updated.

Respectfully Submitted, Donald W. Quick, President GRFFRA 616-490-1040

Where do I Stand? Brothers and Sisters, with the department issuing everyone a dress uniform to include a badge it has been decided to include a department seniority number for each of you. With a great deal of time and research conducted by many present and former members of the department we have come up with what we believe to be a complete list of all who have ever been a uniformed member of the Grand Rapids Fire Department. It was decided to formalize the list as of Fire Prevention Week 2016. If we happen to come across any more names of members in ongoing research that information will be added to our files but will not change the numbers. As new members of the department are sworn in, they will be issued their own unique identifying number. This idea had been tossed around for a while with many asking where their place was in the department’s history/hierarchy. It has come to fruition with the latest contract awarding each of us Class A dress uniforms and the urging and encouragement of our new Fire Chief, John Lehman.

In our research we have ascertained the total amount of members to be 2399. This includes members who have more than one number issued to them because they entered the department, terminated their employment and then reentered at a later date. With that number in hand we worked our way backwards from our last hire of Chief Lehman. We were able to assign an accurate total department seniority number to each active duty member and living retiree.

Unfortunately we are not able to pinpoint exactly who our number 1 firefighter is and with certainty the exact order that some of the members may stand in from the earliest days of the department because no records of that type have been found. When numerous men entered the department at the same date and time in the first days of the department, we just entered them in our roster as we came across the names.

For our former members I will have a printout at the next retirees breakfast and the annual Building Corp meeting for all that are interested in knowing what their number is. For the active members your numbers will be given to you at a later date with all that is going on with the new dress uniforms.

This number will be assigned only to you, it is your place in line in the proud history of the Grand Rapids Fire Department.

In Brotherhood, Rich Moore Historian

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