Dennis M. Bender

Dennis M. Bender

Firefighter/Paramedic Dennis M. Bender, age 78, of the Ponca Hills Volunteer Fire Department suffered a heart attack and died on March 10, 2021, after responding to multiple wildfires.

Bob J. Kneifl

Bob J. Kneifl

Bob was born in 1956 and grew up on the family farm in rural Nebraska. He was the youngest of 12 and from a very early age was known for his kind heart and jokester personality. He graduated from high school in 1974 and went on to receive a degree in auto mechanics. In 1982, Bob started Husker Service in Ponca, Nebraska and was still operating his business when he passed away.

In 1994, he saw that the local fire department needed volunteers so thought, “Why not?” and joined. That decision led to him being a dedicated member for over 26 years. He served as both an EMT and firefighter, earning numerous awards for Fire/Rescue Person of the Year for all of his hard work. He was also the department rescue captain for 22 years, ensuring that fellow EMTs had the tools, resources, and training they needed to safely serve our community.

Bob’s true passion, though, was fire prevention. He served as Ponca’s fire prevention officer for over 20 years, as well as president of the Northeast Nebraska Fire Prevention Co-op. He brought several new resources to our community, including Fire Pup, his fire prevention puppets, and Fireman Spongebob, a whimsical clown character he came up with after attending State Fire School. Fireman Spongebob was a staple in our community. Everyone knew him and looked forward to seeing what new fire prevention tips he had to share.

Bob was a trusted businessman, a dedicated fireman/EMT, but most importantly he was an incredible husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He and his wife, Kim, were married for 39 years, and he had three daughters and nine grandchildren who all thought the world of him. He would do anything for anyone and was a great friend to many.

Bob knew the risks associated with being a fireman/EMT. He trained many members on how to be safe while serving our community. Despite taking all of the precautions he could, Bob contracted COVID. He fought a hard battle, but his body grew tired, and God called him Home on December 7, 2020.

His loss hit us all hard—his family, his friends, and his fellow fire department brothers and sisters. This was evident by the outpouring of love and support they showed us during his illness and how they honored him after his death. COVID meant there were limits on how many people could be at his funeral, but that didn’t stop them from helping us give him a proper send off. Fire trucks from ten area departments, fellow firefighters, community members, friends, and neighbors lined the streets and sidewalks as he was given one last ride throughout town in his beloved fire prevention trailer.

Donald E. Lepper

Donald E. Lepper

Donald Eugene “Donny” Lepper died from cardiovascular causes after responding to a grass fire on February 22, 2020, with the Indianola Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad. He served with the department for 24 years.

After graduating from Republican Valley High School in 1993, Donny spent 25 years working for Lord’s of Indianola.

Active in his community, he assisted with the Old Settlers Parade and the annual Fourth of July fireworks display. He enjoyed playing pool and slow pitch softball.

Loren H. Desler

Loren H. Desler

Firefighter Loren H. Desler (Engine #6), age 28, died from smoke inhalation after searching for trapped workers at the Swanson Office Building while working at Engine #20 on June 4, 1965.

Firefighter Desler was married and father of four children. He was laid to rest at Graceland Park Cemetery in Omaha.

Samuel M. Douchey

Samuel M. Douchey

Firefighter Samuel M. Douchey (Aerial #3), age 24, died from smoke inhalation after searching for trapped workers at the Swanson Office Building while working at Engine #20 on June 4, 1965.

Firefighter Douchey was married and a father of three children. He was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery in Omaha.

John Andrew Sing

John Andrew Sing

John Sing served as fire chief of the Boys Town Volunteer Fire Department for more than 40 years. The Village of Boys Town is on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska, where John was born and lived his entire life. He died at the BTFD fire station after returning from a rescue call early in the morning of Veteran’s Day 2019, just a few weeks short of his 67th birthday.

Lovingly known as “Chief,” disaster, safety preparedness, and service to the community were in John’s DNA. He was raised as a first responder, through his close relationship with his father, whose life was spent in various service roles, including as a volunteer with Boys Town Fire Brigade. In 1971, John began his own service career with Father Flanagan’s Boys Home, where he worked for 48 years. He began his service in 1971 overseeing the Office of Civil Defense. He earned a degree as a Certified Safety Professional, and created the Office of Safety, adhering to the new OSHA standards. Alongside this work, he ‘lit the fire’ beneath the Boys Town Fire Brigade and built it into the Boys Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, serving Boys Town and the surrounding community.

As an officer of the Tri-Mutual Aid Fire Fighters Association, John worked closely with 28 fire and rescue departments in Nebraska and Iowa. He volunteered as a fire instructor for the State of Nebraska and actively organized the annual Tri-Mutual Aid Fire Fighters Association Training Day. John created the Boys Town Fire Cadet Youth Program, focusing on skill and career opportunities in fire services. He was tough, but fair, when it came to training. The legacy of his impact is in the numerous individuals who have gone on to become career firefighters, EMTs, officers, fire marshals, and military service personnel throughout the country.

John received numerous awards for his dedication, service, and for saving lives. Most of all, he was respected as a mentor to anyone who needed help. He was almost always the first responder on every fire and rescue call. On your worst day, he was there, and on your best day his smile and laugh were contagious. In John’s presence, you felt safe.

At sunset, when we see a mass of rose and orange across the sky, we believe “Chief” is busy putting out fires and saving someone, somewhere. John is survived by his wife of 48 years, Sharon; his children, Jamie, and her husband, Todd; Jason, and his wife, Tymaree; and his seven grandchildren, Daniel, Colton, Caleb, Simone, Isabel, Iyla and Londyn.

Eric Speck

Eric Speck

Captain Eric Speck, age 38, of the Dakota City Fire Department, was hospitalized on June 23, 2016, after responding to an EMS call and passed away on June 27, 2016.

Lowell E. Satterwhite Sr.

Lowell E. Satterwhite Sr.

Firefighter Lowell E. Satterwhite, age 67, of the Dakota City Fire Department, died on September 11, 2016, after responding to an emergency medical call.

Andrew N. Zalme

Andrew N. Zalme

Andrew Norman Zalme, 42, passed away April 16, 2015, while responding to a car fire. Andy and other members of the Dakota City Fire Department were finishing up at the scene when Andy complained of chest pains. He collapsed and later died at the hospital.

Andy joined the Dakota City Fire Department in July 2008. He held the position of captain at the time of his death. He also served on the board of directors. Andy joined the fire department so he could make a difference and help his community. Andy also served on many different organizations within the community. Andy loved being part of the fire department and the brotherhood. He would respond to every call that he could.

Andy graduated from Western Iowa Tech in 1993 and started working at Wilson Trailer Company as a drafter. He had worked there for 22 years. At the time of his death he had been working on a specialty trailer for a customer in Canada and had put many hours of work into it, including flying to Canada to meet with the customer.

Andy was very outspoken and was never shy about sharing his opinion. He had a sense of humor which included many one liners.

Andy enjoyed hunting, fishing, archery, guns, and anything outdoors. He loved watching football, especially the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He also loved to BBQ. Every year on the 4th of July, he would be in charge of the BBQ, and most people would love coming just to enjoy the food. Andy especially loved spending time with his three boys, Tyler, Brady, and Jude.

Andy is survived by his wife, Bobbie; his three sons, Tyler, Brady, and Jude; his mother, Sandra; sister, Megan; and brothers-in-law, Justin, Jay, and Jesse. He is also survived by his nieces and nephews, Jacob, Jace, Jada, Ethan, Lilly, Nyle, and Joah; and his extended family and friends in and out of the fire service.

We are happy for the time we did spend with him and love and miss him every day.

Darrell D. Parker

Darrell D. Parker

Darrell grew up in a family of four active boys. His parents were devoted Christians and raised their boys to love God. Darrell went to church camp each year and accepted the Lord as his Savior at a young age. At this time he committed his life to serving God.

After graduation from high school, he worked as a meat cutter at a local packing company until that plant closed. He then turned to driving trucks for a local company that both his brother and dad also drove for. He fell in love with driving a semi truck and continued with this profession until his death.
Darrell met his wife at church, and they became faithful workers in their church. They have one son and a daughter-in-law, and two daughters and a son-in-law. Darrell and his wife were married for 34 years and would have celebrated their 35th anniversary in about one month. They were also blessed with seven grandchildren at the time of his death. His grandchildren were the love of his life and the apple of his eye.

Next to God and family, he loved being a rural volunteer firefighter, serving faithfully in Fairbury for over 25 years. He held several positions within the department, including captain and safety officer. While helping with a search and rescue for some children, Darrell hurt for the family because they had a hard time finding information and were left on their own. He continued to think of this family and felt the Lord calling him to be a fire chaplain. Soon he became the chaplain for the rural department. He also worked towards becoming a licensed pastor for the Foursquare Church where he attended. He was to possibly receive his license at district conference in September, but passed away before that was accomplished. He was head usher at his church and a greeter. He also served on the council for many years.

On August 10, 2014, he answered his final fire call before church and suffered a heart attack on the way to the fire hall to get a truck. He passed away on August 13, 2014. Through the years, he made many friends in the trucking business and with other firefighters in surrounding towns. He was honored at his funeral by over 500 family members, friends, firefighters, EMTs, and members of law enforcement.

Darrell was the first firefighter to die in the line of duty in Jefferson County.

He left behind his wife, son, two daughters, a daughter-in-law and a son-in-law. He was also survived by his mother and father, three brothers, and their wives. He is also missed by his seven grandchildren.