Monday, July 15, 2013

A living tribute to a lifetime of service for 90-year-old Feasterville firefighter

Posted: Friday, July 5, 2013

Joe Lanzendorfer never wanted to be a firefighter.
Feasterville firefighter Joe Lanzendorfer, 90

But after he moved from Philadelphia to Feasterville he found out his next-door neighbor was a fire policeman. He introduced Lanzendorfer to the Feasterville Fire Co.

“It was the best thing he ever done,” Lanzendorfer said.
More than 50 years later, the neighbor is gone.
But Lanzendorfer is still with the Feasterville Fire Co., where he is listed as a past assistant chief, past president, past chief engineer, past trustee, as well as a current lifetime member.
On Thursday he earned yet another honor, one historically reserved for firefighters who’ve gone to that big firehouse in the sky. Lanzendorfer is the first living Feasterville Fire Co. member to have a fire vehicle dedicated to him.
The company’s new Ford F-550 utility vehicle, which replaced a now-retired 1996 model – now bears a brass plaque on its bumper with Lanzendorfer’s name.
Fellow firefighters surprised Lanzendorfer with the dedication, which was decided months ago. As he removed the firefighter coat hiding the plaque he had tears in his eyes.
“It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “These boys are so great to me. I’m proud of the years I put in here.”
At age 90 he doesn’t respond to fire calls anymore, but he never misses the monthly membership meetings. He also helps count the change collected at coin tosses. He never misses the annual banquet either.
Firefighters have a longstanding tradition of dedicating vehicles in memory of members. The three other Feasterville fire vehicles are dedicated to members who have died, Chief Frank Walter said.
When vehicles are retired — usually every 15 years or so — the dedication plaques are removed and mounted on the firehouse walls.
When it came time to replace the utility vehicle, Walter recommended dedicating it to Lanzendorfer and the rest of the membership agreed.
“This whole building stands in tribute to Joe,” past Feasterville Fire Chief Steve Eckman said.
As a trustee, Lanzendorfer was instrumental in exercising financial restraint among members. “His mission was teaching us young guys the value of saving rather than spending,” Eckman said.
With the type of dedication and loyalty that Lanzendorfer has demonstrated, it seemed like the right thing for the company to show its appreciation while he was still around to enjoy it, Walter said.
“What he has done in the past, and he’s still alive, and I think that is a very nice gesture,” he added.
His children, son Daniel and daughter Patricia Kelly, agree. They remember growing up how the fire phone in the house alerted their dad about a call. There were many early morning wake-up calls and interrupted dinners.
“It didn’t matter if it was 3 o’clock in the morning or 3 o’clock in the afternoon,” said Daniel, a past Feasterville firefighter. “He’d go flying out the door. He was dedicated to the department.”
He still is, Kelly added.
“It was a big part of his life,’’ she said. “It still is.”
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia

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