Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Louis Voelker was long-time fire chief in Deer Park

He continued helping even in retirement

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

DEER PARK - Louis E. "Lou" Voelker, retired chief of the Deer Park Volunteer Fire Department, died June 16 at 93. Visitation and viewing were at the fire station.

"We've never, to my knowledge, ever done that for anybody," Deputy Chief Tom Camp said.

But Mr. Voelker wasn't just anybody.

He was a member of the department for 43 years and its chief for 19. After his retirement in 1984, he "probably put in 50, 60, 70 hours a week making runs 24 hours a day," Camp said. He was "90-something years old and still active."

Born in 1911, Mr. Voelker grew up in Norwood where his father, Philip, helped organize the village's first volunteer fire department.

"Being a fireman is something I've wanted to do since I was a boy," Mr. Voelker told the Enquirer in 1980.

He went to work for Rebisso Plumbing and Heating Co. at 15 and proved himself a talented plumber. He worked for the company for 50 years and eventually became an owner.

The Great Depression coincided with Mr. Voelker's young adulthood and taught him lessons in frugality.

"He liked to think of ways to do something better," said his daughter-in-law Carol Voelker of Hamilton Township. "He didn't like to throw anything away because he knew there would always be a use for it later. He always improvised and conserved on money."

That habit came in handy when he became chief in 1965.

"He was a very progressive chief," Camp said. He was eager to incorporate new technology and training, but was innovative enough to save the department money by making or repairing apparatus himself.

"Chief Voelker was big into training. Even though the man only had an eighth-grade education, you'd never know that by talking to him."

Mr. Voelker established firefighter training, public fire prevention and school fire safety programs. He also designed equipment and performed maintenance work at the fire station.

And he established the department's Sick and Memorial Committee, which arranges visits to firefighters who are ill and performs services at their funerals.

When he was 69, Mr. Voelker resuscitated a 79-year-old woman who was unconscious in her burning, smoke-filled apartment. Then, with the help of another firefighter, he carried her out.

That year - 1979 - Mr. Voelker became the first Ohio State Fireman's Association Fireman of the Year.

His wife of 63 years, Naomi Markley Voelker, died in 1993.

Survivors include a son, Louis Voelker Jr. of Hamilton Township; a daughter, Barbara Buckley of Sterling, Mich.; a brother, Harry Voelker of Sylvania, Ga.; six grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and three great-great grandchildren.

Memorials: Deer Park/Silverton Fire Protection Association, 7050 Blue Ash Road, Silverton, OH 45236, or Hospice of Cincinnati, 4310 Cooper Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242-8922.


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