After 50 years of service at Lewis Township Fire & Rescue, group founder Dave Nelson retired Tuesday.
Nelson had celebrated his 50th year of service earlier in 2019. Due to this celebration and other personal circumstances, a retirement party was not held.
“He’s very loved and respected on the department,” said Jake Hardiman, EMS deputy chief for Lewis Township Fire & Rescue.
Originally, Lewis Township Fire & Rescue was the Manawa Fire Department.
Since the department started in 1969, multiple workers stated Nelson was paramount in helping it grow and thrive.
Nelson was the chief for a few years, Hardiman said. He had also been part of the dive team and multiple operations in the department.
When asked what he affected at the station, Hardiman said: “What didn’t Dave help shape in this department?”
“During his time as chief, that was when we started running medical calls, because we used to only run fire (calls),” he said.
Nelson would also improvise and make equipment when the department couldn’t afford to buy a piece of equipment. Nelson “liked to make everything,” said Jeremy Meyers, fire chief for Lewis Township Fire & Rescue.
Since Nelson also worked as a veterinarian — Meyers mentioned Nelson improvised one time when a horse was called in stuck in a creek. The oxygen mask normally used for people didn’t fit the horse.
“I believe he used the oxygen tubing, cut off the mask and put it in the horses nose,” Meyers said.
With his knowledge as a veterinarian and in the fire department, Nelson was described as not only a good leader, but a mentor.
“Dave has always been the mentor on the department,” Hardiman said. “He’s the one you go to for advice.
Outside the work, he was dedicated to his family and his church.
Nelson is retiring, although his influence will continue to be felt by the department whether it be through equipment he helped with, his determination or his philosophy.
“Dave has a philosophy ‘We owe it to our community to do our best,’” Hardiman said.