By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Dedication is among the first things that come to mind when one thinks about firefighters, and one firefighter who has been especially dedicated will be recognized during an open house at the Lester Prairie fire station.
The firefighter is Jerry Pawelk, who retired in January after 45 years of service to the department.
The event will take place Sunday, April 26 from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the station, which is located at 36 Redwood Street North in Lester Prairie.
A short program will take place at 2:30 p.m.
In addition to giving the public an opportunity to tour the facility and see the equipment that the department has been able to acquire through recent Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters grants and learn about the department, the event will honor Pawelk for his years of service.
Pawelk joined the department in September 1963.
By October 1971, he had advanced to the office of assistant fire chief under Harold Klaustermeier, who was chief at that time.
In October 1982, Pawelk was appointed fire chief. He held that office until the end of December 1999.
From Jan. 1, 2000 until his retirement from the department on Jan. 1, 2009, Pawelk served as Lester Prairie’s fire marshall.
“He was also a driving force behind the construction of our new fire hall, and laid a lot of the groundwork for that project,” Lester Prairie Fire Chief Jim Hoof said.
In addition to his service to the Lester Prairie Fire Department, Pawelk has been an active member of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association since October 1971, according to Hoof.
In 2007, the association named Pawelk fire officer of the year for departments serving a population of less than 2,000 people.
That same year, the association also recognized Pawelk for his long service as a board member and as the finance committee chair.
“He was always very involved in the association’s finances, and did a lot to keep the association financially sound,” Hoof commented.
He added that Pawelk got to know a lot of firefighters over the years because he was very involved in Region 10 (the region of which the Lester Prairie Fire Department is a part).
Hoof said that Pawelk is well-known by people across the country who have met him through his North Central Ambulance business.
Pawelk has also been an active supporter of education and training for firefighters, Hoof said.
Lester Prairie is fortunate to have many dedicated firefighters, a number of whom have more than 20 years of service, and some more than 30 years of service, according to Hoof.