John D. Grabowski

John D. Grabowski

John Daniel Grabowski was born on January 28‚ 1963‚ in Wyandotte‚ Michigan‚ to Anthony and Patricia Grabowski. John was the sixth of eight children that made up the Grabowski family. He grew up working for the family business‚ a popular ‘mom and pop’ hardware store that was known for its friendly service and laid back atmosphere. Twenty years later‚ people would still recognize John from his days at the hardware.

In 1988‚ John decided to take a new turn towards a career and was hired by the city of Riverview‚ Michigan‚ as a firefighter. During his time with the department‚ he worked hard and was dedicated to his community. He climbed the ranks‚ completing numerous trainings and earning many awards‚ eventually earning the rank of lieutenant and becoming an EMT-Specialist. He was involved in firefighter charities such as the annual Bowl for Burns‚ which raises money for the University of Michigan Burn Center. At 24 years of service‚ John became the president of his union‚ Riverview Firefighters AFSCME Local 3667.

John was not only involved in the firefighting community‚ but also held a job at a local chemical plant‚ BASF Corporation‚ where he ‘climbed the ladder‚’ earning the title of technician trainer. He was part of BASF’s emergency response team‚ using his skills as an EMT to respond to emergency situations on the large property.

Outside of his firefighting services and the chemical plant‚ John enjoyed traveling to the family vacation home in ‘Up North’ Michigan where he would fish and ride his jet ski. He was well known around a large community for his outgoing and friendly personality. There was not a person that crossed his path that did not like John Grabowski. He made friends everywhere he went and considered his co-workers family‚ and his fellow firefighters‚ brothers.

John was 49 years old. He is survived by two daughters and a stepson‚ but was preceded in death by his wife‚ Angela Hicks-Grabowski‚ who lost her battle with cancer. Everyone will forever remember his positive outlook on life‚ as well as his ability to light up a room with his charismatic smile and the sound of his laughter.

John T. Sayles

John T. Sayles

John Thomas Sayles was born May 7‚ 1974‚ in Jackson‚ Michigan‚ to Thomas and Ann (Sexton) Sayles. John’s mother and father exposed him to livestock and farming from a young age. He loved the outdoors‚ swimming‚ and water skiing. He was a protective older brother to his sister‚ MaryAnn. In 1985‚ the family moved to Hart‚ Michigan. John was eager to get a snowmobile‚ but his father had other ideas. John received his first tractor‚ a John Deere Model A.

John graduated from Pentwater Public School in 1992. On October 3‚ 1998‚ he married his college sweetheart‚ Melanie Hartley‚ at Riverside Park in Scottville‚ Michigan. John and Melanie were blessed with three beautiful daughters‚ Mercedy‚ Marissa‚ and Mandi. Like their father‚ they are being raised with the love of farming.

John’s firefighter training began in the fall of 2002. Within two years he was one of the more active members of Pentwater Fire Department. He then accepted a full-time job with the Pentwater Department of Public Works. John had a reputation for always smiling and was willing to help anyone‚ no matter how big or small the problem. Whenever there was a call for help‚ John was always there. He responded to 787 fire and rescue incidents in just 10 years‚ second only to the fire chief.

At 6′ 4”‚ John was a gentle giant. He enjoyed deer camp every year with the same group of friends‚ even though he never shot a deer. When the fire pager would tone‚ his enthusiasm to respond and a more serious demeanor would surface. A Michigan certified Fire Officer I & II‚ he commanded all incident responses‚ but his strength and passion was water supply. He thrived when there were no hydrants. John always made sure the engines were pushing enough water‚ and tenders were bringing enough water.

John was not only active in the Pentwater DPW and Fire Department but also very active in agriculture‚ working for Aerts Apple Farm. He was extremely active with his daughters‚ coaching soccer and basketball‚ leading 4-H‚ and being a member of the West Michigan Old Engine Club. John will be remembered for his core country living values and his dedication to family and community. He loved country music‚ trucks‚ and anything John Deere. But more than anything‚ John loved his wife‚ children‚ and family.

Gerald Robert Wetherell

Gerald Robert Wetherell

Gerald Robert ‘Jerry’ Wetherell was a volunteer fireman and full-time EMT in Denton Township‚ Roscommon County‚ Michigan. Jerry was born on February 23‚ 1938‚ in Flint and lived there until 1973‚ when he moved his family to Denton Township. That year‚ he and his wife‚ Alice‚ purchased the Sand Bar‚ a nightclub on the southeast shore of Houghton Lake. Together they operated the Sand Bar for 38 years. Jerry joined the Denton Township Volunteer Fire Department in 1974‚ where he attained the rank of lieutenant and served until his death on February 28‚ 2012.

The Denton Fire Hall is located next door to the Sand Bar. Living so close‚ Jerry was very often the first person to arrive for a fire or rescue call. He loved being a fireman and helping people. He also enjoyed going on emergency rescue calls and took advantage of all the training the department offered. He trained as a first responder and EMT and became a full-time EMT for the township ambulance service. Jerry was well known and liked by emergency staff personnel at hospitals throughout Michigan’s lower peninsula.

He was an organizer and quick to volunteer for any community event supported by the fire departments. He really enjoyed riding in or driving the fire trucks in parades and at local Halloween events. Jerry also was a powerful advocate for the wellbeing of animals. He belonged to the Humane Society of the U.S. and several state and county animal protection agencies. Jerry was generous with his time and his resources when it came to animals. He rescued three cats from the local shelters and always kept a watchful eye for pets in burning buildings.

Jerry leaves behind his wife of 57 years‚ Alice; two daughters‚ Pamela and Kristine‚ and their husbands‚ Ron and John; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. His smile was contagious! He is missed by his family‚ the members of the Denton Township Fire Department‚ township offices and ambulance service‚ and the many‚ many patrons of the Sand Bar.

Thomas G. Hardy

Thomas G. Hardy

Tom was born February 10‚ 1942‚ in Kalamazoo‚ Michigan. He graduated from Richland High School in 1960. Tom became a Journeyman Millwright after completing a Millwright Apprenticeship. He worked in auto factories‚ paper mills‚ food factories‚ and nuclear power plants until his retirement.

Tom married Janice Irene Mahoney in 1963. He had two children‚ a son‚ John (wife Erin)‚ and a daughter‚ Kimberly. He had two grandchildren‚ Avery Elizabeth and Kendra Lynn. Tom moved his family to Hickory Corners‚ Michigan‚ in 1974‚ and after a fire in their new home he joined the Hickory Corners Fire Department as a firefighter and became fire chief of that department in 1978. While on this department‚ he became president of the Barry County Fire Chiefs Association.

Tom and his family moved to Athens‚ Michigan‚ in 1987. In 1993‚ Tom joined the Athens Township Fire Department as a firefighter and was appointed fire chief of that department in 1998. Tom was involved with the 911 Committee‚ Tri County Firefighters Association‚ and Calhoun County Fire Chiefs Association.

Firefighting was Tom’s life’s passion until his passing on December 31‚ 2010.

Donald G. Paterson

Donald G. Paterson

There is no profile listed for this fallen firefighter.

Joseph Torkos

Joseph  Torkos

There is no profile listed for this fallen firefighter.

Walter P. Harris

Walter P. Harris

Firefighter Walter P. Harris was killed in a roof collapse while fighting a fire that had been intentionally set in a vacant residential structure. A 17-year veteran with the department‚ he worked his entire career at the Squad 3/Engine 23 firehouse.

Walter grew up on east side of Detroit and graduated from Detroit De La Salle High School. After graduation‚ he went to the fire academy.

Walter was a minister at Community Christian Fellowship Church

Walter Harris was survived by his wife‚ Syri; and his six sons‚ James‚ Robert‚ Patrick‚ Caleb‚ Walter Jr.‚ and Christian.

His son‚ James Hill Harris‚ also a member of Detroit Fire Department‚ said: He taught life lessons about integrity and hard work. His favorite saying was‚ ‘I can sleep when I’m dead‚ but for now I’ve got work to do.’ He showed me: This is what it means to be a father and husband. This is what it means to be a man.

John Eastman ‘Dawg’ Lietzke

John Eastman 'Dawg' Lietzke

Submitted by his Wife

John Eastman ‘Dawg’ Lietzke
Olivet Fire Department – Michigan
Classification: Volunteer
Rank: Firefighter
Date of Death: September 25‚ 2007
Age: 47

My husband‚ John‚ was a wonderfully complex man. He was a loving husband; a wonderful father‚ stepfather and grandfather; a much loved son‚ brother‚ and uncle; and a truly loyal friend.

From all outward appearances‚ he was big‚ strong‚ and athletic: a man’s man. But he was also gentle‚ loving‚ caring‚ and considerate. He was fun-loving‚ with a loud‚ infectious laugh. A big kid at heart‚ at times he could be downright goofy.

‘His girls’ were the center of John’s world. When it came to family‚ he was a big softy. No matter how busy he was‚ he would always make time for his daughters’ fieldtrips‚ concerts‚ athletic events‚ or coaching their softball team‚ and quality time with me.

Inside‚ ‘Dawg’ was an adventurous spirit‚ willing to try just about anything. On his 40th birthday‚ he learned to skydive. Together‚ we traveled extensively in and out of the country. His love for working out was apparent from his strength; he could bench press 280 pounds. An avid bowler‚ he had several 300 games‚ but was an even better golfer‚ consistently scoring in the mid to high 30s.

Working hard was a way of life for John. For 26 years‚ he was a plumber/pipefitter/welder‚ but his passion was firefighting. Originally‚ he joined the Olivet Volunteer Fire Department as a younger man‚ but was forced to quit when he moved out of the area. However‚ his desire to return to firefighting never diminished‚ and he often spoke of those experiences. Several years later‚ after returning to the area‚ he once again became a proud member of the OVFD.

On the night of September 25‚ 2007‚ John was responding to one of those emergency calls during a severe thunderstorm. Just after cresting a hill‚ on a dark country road‚ John struck a large tree spanning the road that had been knocked down by torrential rains and extremely high winds. He was killed instantly.

The world has lost a truly remarkable man. The men and women of Olivet Fire Department‚ John’s family and his many‚ many friends were indeed fortunate to have known this man. The world is a much poorer place without him.

John‚ we will always love and miss you.

Peter G. ‘Pete’ Neilson

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.

Timothy L. Sanborn

Timothy L. Sanborn

Submitted by his Family

Tim’s firefighting career started in the early 1980s with the Birch Run Fire Department in Birch Run‚ Michigan. In 2002‚ he joined Clinton Area Fire and Rescue as a volunteer firefighter in St. John’s‚ Michigan. He was a third generation firefighter.

Tim was known for his sense of humor‚ hard work‚ and dedication to his department‚ job‚ and his family. He was the kind of person that you could never forget; always made you smile‚ and was never at a loss for words.

When he was going through his pre-certification classes‚ his firefighting brothers and sisters dubbed him Grandpa‚ because of his gray hair and being the oldest in the class. He took great pride in his new name.

Sadly‚ on June 22‚ 2007‚ while fighting a house fire‚ he suffered a massive heart attack. He passed away en route to the hospital at the age of 56. He left behind his wife of 31 years‚ Marie; and three daughters‚ Shannon (Tim) Freeland‚ Lisa (Derek) Smith‚ and Amy Sanborn.

After 34 years of service‚ he had retired from General Motors the previous year and was looking forward to living the retired life‚ playing lots of golf‚ hunting‚ traveling to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula‚ and spending time with his wife‚ who had also just recently retired.

In July 2007‚ at the annual Clinton Area Fire and Rescue Steak Fry‚ Tim was named Firefighter of the Year for 2006-2007 by his fellow firefighters‚ for his outstanding courage‚ bravery‚ and dedication to serve and protect.

Tim was very proud to be a member of the Clinton Area Fire and Rescue and the service that he provided to his community. There will always be an empty place in the hearts of his family‚ friends‚ and fellow firefighters. Tim was and will always be our hero.

More Video: Timothy L. Sanborn Hero Tribute