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National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Roll of Honor

Firefighter/Medical First Responder
Age: 74
Year of Death: 2007

Peter G. ‘Pete’ Neilson

Submitted by his Wife

Pete moved from his childhood home in Connecticut‚ to Columbia County‚ New York when his family bought a farm while he was in high school. There he served on the Spencertown Volunteer Fire Department until he left for college.

Pete studied Agricultural Engineering at Cornell University (where we met)‚ but was side-tracked from that career by an ROTC commitment. He served 21 years in the US Army Ordnance Corps at Aberdeen Maryland‚ Huntsville Alabama‚ Germany‚ Korea‚ Vietnam‚ and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His last military assignment brought us (with our two sons) to Michigan where he worked in research and development.

After Pete retired from the military in 1976‚ he returned to Agricultural Engineering. He worked five years for Massey Ferguson‚ and bought a farm in St. Clair County‚ Michigan. There he joined the Kenockee Township Fire Department and began another career of 25 years.

Pete loved the fire department and I learned to sleep through all the machines ‘talking’ and toning out just outside the bedroom door. Whenever the tones went off‚ he would respond.

During his years on the fire department he served in various ranks including Chief for 6 years. He was president of the St Clair County Firefighter’s Association in 1992.

Pete was instrumental in the development of Haz-Mat classes in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources to instruct fire fighters in safety. He organized presentations during Fire Safety Week for the local school. Pete was several years the number one run maker of the department. In spite of health problems in 2007‚ he still made 75% of the department’s 200 runs.

Pete received many honors with the department and the county‚ as well as being awarded Fire Officer of the Year by the State of Michigan in 2001.

When Pete was 65 he tried resigning from the fire department. He wasn’t happy and soon was back making runs at all hours. After the time that he was first on the scene and saved the life of a premature infant who had stopped breathing‚ he never talked of resigning again.

Pete enjoyed using the military surplus systems to obtain furniture and equipment to outfit the fire hall and community center. His last acquisition was put into service after he had passed on‚ a surplus Air Force refueling tanker‚ which has been fitted out to the fire department’s needs as a water tanker.

On December 17th he responded to a medical emergency‚ and while counseling the family of the victim‚ he sat down and stopped breathing. His brother firefighters and the ambulance crew worked on him‚ but to no avail. He will long be missed by his family and friends and the fire service.

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  1. Pete was always a humble, caring, loving man. Now God has given him wings to watch over us all…..a friend since my college days.

    – Barb Purtee
  2. Rest In Peace brother. You are loved and remembered. ?

    – Sam Trachet
  3. Pete and I were best friends in 1972 in VN on a MACV advisory team with the 21st ARVN Division, he was on his second tour. He took off his Ordinance brass and wore Infantry crossed rifles.

    – Tom Skrodzki