DICKEYVILLE—They joined the Dickeyville Fire Department around the time when the hose cart was replaced by a Chevy truck. They saw the department grow from one truck to many and shrink from 53 active members to approximately 30. Their monthly meetings were once held in a one-car garage, and now at the firehouse they helped build. Bill Wiederholt and Dallas Millard each contributed 55 years of dedicated service to their community, and they were honored with a retirement ceremony at the firehouse on Monday, March 14.
Even though they started two months apart, they decided they wanted to go out together and held out until they reached their 55-year milestone.
Wiederholt said he moved to the area in 1957 and wanted to get involved in the fire department right away, but he was on a waiting list as there were too many active volunteers at that time. He was finally admitted to the crew in March 1961.
Two months later, Millard joined the ranks, too.
“I was talked into it by my favorite bartender, Jerry Kuepers,” Millard said. “He said the fire department needed help, so he talked me into it. The worst part of that was, when Jerry resigned as secretary, he talked me into being secretary, too. I’ve been doing that for 46 years. I got myself a long-time job, which I didn’t mind.”
Wiederholt was the captain of a rescue van from the time it was purchased in 1994 to approximately 1 ½ years ago when his eyesight started failing him.
“There have been some bad times and some good times,” Millard said.
He remembered losing four children in a fire. There were others they couldn’t save over the years, and sometimes Millard wakes up to those memories.
“The worst times for me was when the pagers went off in the middle of the night,” Wiederholt said. “You get up and go and never really know what you’re going to run into. After it’s over with, you bring your machinery back and clean it up. You go to bed and maybe try to get an hour or two of sleep. Most nights you couldn’t get back to sleep again.”
Wiederholt said the increased traffic on Hwy. 151 causes more accidents to respond to than fires.
The dwindling roster has both men worried for the future of the fire department, which is now merged with the town of Paris.
“For daytime calls, sometimes you have to sit and wait for enough members to roll your truck out,” Millard said. “There aren’t enough drivers. Mutual aid really helps.”
Wiederholt said having the EMTs in the same building helps coordinate efforts.
“There was really never enough money for what we needed,” Wiederholt said. “We would have dances and raffles to help raise the money for new equipment.”
They appreciate the private donations from local families, too.
“Usually, when we go talk to the people and ask for something specific, they help us out,” Wiederholt said. “They are the ones who put us where we are. Of course, we have done a lot of hard work ourselves, putting the building up to keep the price down.”
The volunteers used their spare time to complete the firehouse. The fire department holds meetings on the second Monday of the month and training on the fourth Monday of the month.
Millard served in the Naval Reserves of Dubuque for eight years during the Korean War and then worked at Dubuque Packing Company for 39 years.
Wiederholt grew up on a farm near Louisburg and was drafted in 1952 and served two years of active duty during the Korean War. After his service, he worked at Kowalski-Kieler for three years before finishing out his career at the Louisburg Garage, where he retired in 1996 with 40 years. Following his retirement, he and his wife spent some time in Alaska, then he helped his son work at the marina in Dubuque. When his son quit in 2000, he officially retired.
“I stayed on the fire department, though,” Wiederholt said. “That was one of my great interests, to help out in the community where I could, not only at the fires, but there were lots of accidents. There were lots of things we did as firemen that we included the community.”
The firemen had the opportunity to thank both men and their families for their dedication to the fire department at the monthly meeting.
“Thank you for putting up with us for so many years,” Millard said.
“I’m glad I got to be a part of it,” Wiederholt added.