Kenneth A. Woitalewicz

Kenneth A. Woitalewicz

Submitted by his wife and sons

Kenneth A. (Kenny) Woitalewicz‚ 38 years old‚ was a Captain with the Wood River Fire and Rescue Department in Wood River‚ NE. In the early morning hours of February 14‚ 2004‚ Kenny and fellow fire fighter Bobby Heminger responded to a house fire where an elderly lady was trapped inside. Both men entered the home in hopes to rescue the individual when a portion of the roof collapsed on them‚ trapping them inside. Captain Bobby Heminger died the next day from his injuries and Captain Kenny Woitalewicz succumbed to his injuries two day later.

Captain Kenny Woitalewicz began his service with the Wood River Fire and Rescue in 1992. After extensive training‚ Kenny quickly found his calling as an aggressive fire fighter. Kenny was honored as the department’s ‘Fire Fighter of the Year’ in 1996. The fire chief also cited him for his bravery in a heroic rescue effort during an agricultural confined space incident. Kenny was a skilled automotive rescue technician who prided himself in developing new techniques for crash rescue and also applied his skills at metal work to the design and construction of numerous tools‚ hose appliances and storage devices for the departments use. During his career‚ he served with tremendous dedication as a lieutenant and engineer before being appointed to the position of Captain. His bravery and courage were demonstrated on several occasions.

Kenny was a dedicated fireman who truly loved all of the fire department activities. He was a master craftsman and liked building projects with steel in his shop and was known for building utility trailers of all kinds. He was known throughout the community for his radiating smile and the often heard honk of his pickup horn as he waved and drove by. Kenny was known as a practical joker that left many smiles on the faces of his Wood River friends. He had no greater love then that of his family. He was a dedicated father and husband and always found time for his wife and sons even during his busy schedule.

Kenny and I were married June 30‚ 1990. We both loved the idea of living in the small town of Wood River. We were looking forward to having kids and raising them here. We became involved with the fire department to help serve the community. We were blessed with our son Matthew in April of 1994 and he is so much like his daddy. He’s caring‚ compassionate‚ willing to lend a hand to help anyone‚ and the fixer of all things. In June of 1999 we were blessed with our son Ryan who is also so much like his daddy only he is the part of Kenny where the little jokes‚ pranks‚ orneriness and smiles will make you laugh till your sides ached. So instead of having Kenny here with us‚ I now have him in two little boys that will remain my pride‚ joy and focus forever.

Kenny had a heart of gold and would give the shirt off his back to help anyone. He always knew just what to do to make people smile and he loved the fire department and the families of those involved with the department just as much.

He was a dedicated father and husband‚ wonderful son‚ brother and friend and will be missed by all who knew and loved him. We will treasure the ‘I love you’ we received from him on the morning of February 14‚ 2004 as I share that with the two angels he leaves behind. This has made a stronger person out of the boys and I and even though he may be gone from our lives‚ he still holds a special place in our hearts and he’ll never be forgotten.

Kenny was always our ‘hero’ and now he’s everyone’s hero.

Melissa‚ Matthew and Ryan Woitalewicz

Bob Heminger

Bob  Heminger

Submitted by his wife and children

Robert E. ‘Bobby’ Heminger‚ 39 years old‚ was a Captain with the Wood River Fire and Rescue Department in Wood River‚ Nebraska. In the early morning hours of Saturday‚ February 14‚ 2004‚ Bob and fellow firefighter Kenny Woitalewicz responded to a house fire where an elderly woman was trapped inside. Both firefighters entered the home hoping to rescue the victim when a poorly constructed roof loaded with ice collapsed on them‚ trapping them underneath the rubble. Captain Bobby Heminger died the next day from his injuries‚ and Captain Kenny Woitalewicz succumbed to his injuries two days later.

Captain Robert ‘Bobby’ Heminger joined the ranks of Wood River Fire and Rescue in 1984. He was a great promoter of the department‚ and encouraged many of the departmentïs current members to join‚ including his father‚ Dewey. During his 20 year career‚ Bobby’s training and dedication carried him to a place of prominence in the community. In addition to his fire fighting duties‚ he served as an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician‚ CPR instructor‚ and Instructor trainer. Bobby was very active in fire prevention activities and loved to work with school children. Heminger received a Chief’s Citation for exemplary service in 2002 and a 20 year service award in 2004. Heminger was a key member of the Wood River Rescue Squad when they were awarded the Nebraska EMS Provider of the Year award in 1991 and 2002. At the time of his accident he was one of the most highly trained‚ experienced and dedicated members of the department.

Bob coached our son Jon’s baseball teams and was a Boy Scout Leader. He enjoyed pheasant hunting‚ golf‚ working on computers‚ grilling and coaching and attending Jon and Lindsay’s sporting events. He taught CPR for Central Community College in Grand Island and had helped with the Farm Safety Just For Kids since its inception at Wood River High School. Bob enjoyed all firefighting activities and was a dedicated fireman who would be there to help anyone in the time of need.

Bob and I (Eva) were high school sweethearts‚ and celebrated our 18th anniversary shortly before his death. Our son Jon‚ 13 and our daughter Lindsay‚ 12 were his pride and joy. Jon has his father’s love of the outdoors – fishing and hunting‚ golf‚ and all sports. Lindsay looks so much like her daddy in his younger days‚ and is quite proud of it. Both kids have their dad’s wonderful sense of humor‚ and his love and respect for people.

His fellow firefighters remember a friend‚ a dedicated and knowledgeable firefighter who was willing to help. Bob was a loving father and husband‚ wonderful son‚ brother and friend. His family remembers an easy going‚ confident‚ caring and loving man and will be missed by all who knew him. He was a very special person with a heart of gold. He is truly missed by those who loved him dearly.