LEXINGTON — Dean Wheeler is the first firefighter in the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department’s 128 year history to have served for 61 years. He retired this year, but not before his fellow firefighters gave him a proper send off.
Wheeler was surprised on Sunday, April 18 with a parade of LVFD fire engines, tankers, pumpers, ambulances and other pieces of equipment. Nearly every member of the department piled into the vehicles for the event.
Wheeler and his family gathered outside of his home on 9th St. to watch and were greeted by waving firefighters, horns and sirens as they paraded past.
Coming back around, the firefighters blocked off 9th St. as they all greeted Wheeler or “Dean-O” as most called him, thanking him for his 60 years of service.
Wheeler joined the LVFD on March 10, 1960.
In the early days, the fire department’s equipment consisted of a LaFrance fire engine, first aid unit and a Dodge pickup.
Wheeler recalled only going out in their work clothes in those early days, with none of the bunker gear firefighters wear today. The calls also came by telephone, with pagers coming around later.
In 1978, Wheeler was named Fireman of the Year, he also earned the Aksarben Outstanding Firefighter Award. Wheeler served locally at various times as president, captain and Lieutenant, according to LVFD Records Clerk Dale Holbein.
He faithfully attended Nebraska Volunteer Fire Association conferences and State Fire School.
During the first 40 years of his service, Wheeler answered over 60 percent of Lexington calls, the amount of volunteer hours he put in over his 61 years are beyond count.
During his last several years of service, Wheeler helped in the kitchen to prepare weekly meals for his fellow firefighters.
Wheeler’s family supported him over the years and they too participated with many of the LVFD’s functions.
Wheeler said being on the department was like a job to him and he continued to “stir the pot,” after his six decades of service.
See Page 8 for more photos.