Last week in my Friday newsletter, I gave mention about being asked to donate to an organization that is very near and dear to our families heart. I even gave a sneak peek saying his name is on the front of the building! So, if you haven't signed up for my Friday email chat, you better get over there and sign up now so you can stop missing out on some pretty cool information. ;)
So here's the story about one guy who loved nothing more than his brotherhood and wanted to better an entire community; this is Jack's story and being on the Waterloo Volunteer Fire Department.
Jack was all about connection and community. He displayed that in his every day life with his friends and family, making each person a priority. He also honored this with his job and all his co-workers who he worked with for many years and created a family within his job from coast to coast. Jack then became a volunteer firefighter/EMT and that is where his heart banded with a group of individuals that became our family and this is where Jack's passion for helping other's grew exponentially over the course of the remainder of his life.
I can't exactly remember all the details prior and when it all started but I know Jack talked a lot about the how WFD (waterloo fire dept) needed a new station as they had grown out of their current facility and also it was very old and needed many updates. He worked with the rural fire board and the village of Waterloo for many months. He somehow worked his magical selling skills and was able to secure land and the ability to build a new fire station for the community. Now, I know he didn't go at this all alone; many people played a role in making this happen and I won't go into all the details because I don't know half of it LOL!
BUT, Jack was the driving force and worked endlessly with everyone to build a new and amazing facility. This was all happening while Jack was diagnosed and battling cancer. Jack never gave up his drive or desire to see this fire station built. He was so so close to the finish line of it being complete before he died. I can remember vividly other members and friends on the department taking over the roles for Jack in January when his cancer was progressing and his time was coming to an end. Guys were bringing brick samples over asking Jack which ones he wanted, they were coming to him with samples and other decisions too. The last week of Jack's life, we were talking and he told me that all he really wanted to see before he died was the fire station complete. Well, he obviously didn't get that privilege, but I'll share my speech I gave and my thoughts on that.
After Jack died, I was approached by the fire department and they asked if they could name the new fire station after Jack. I of course was very humbled and appreciative that they would honor Jack and his dedication to getting that station built for the department and the community. They had a dedication and unveiling of the new department on July 19, 2009 for the entire community with some representatives of the State of Nebraska there, a pancake feed for the community, and of course our family. I was honored to speak at the event and unveil the plaque that was done and is hanging on the outside of the front door to the fire department. The plaque says: "The Waterloo Fire Department is named in memory of firefighter Jack Rittenhouse. The fire station is dedicated to the men and women of the waterloo volunteer fire department past, present, and future." (pictures below).
The following is my speech:
"I had a hard time deciding exactly what to say about Jack, a million things come to my mind today. Jack loved life and he loved being a member of this department. He loved the brotherhood that came with being a firefighter. Jack was compassionate, kind, he was loving, trusting, hard-working, a great friend, and dedicated. Jack came by all of these naturally and he brought all of these to the forefront while on the fire department.
From the beginning of this project until the end of Jack's life, he was completely dedicated to the WFD and the outcome that they would receive. The last 16 months of Jack's life he wasn't able to be a 1st responder or he wasn't able to fight many fires. Jack was fighting his own personal battle with cancer. But while fighting this battle the one thing he could do was dedicate his skills and his talent in helping build a new station. Jack would have never dreamed of this dedication today. He wouldn't have wanted it to be about him. He would have wanted people to know the reason why he dedicated his time and so much effort into this new station was because he wanted to better this department. Waterloo is a wonderful, growing community and has so much to offer families. I think this is why it is so important for the community to have a state of the art fire station that is equipped with all the amenities that the members and this community need. Jack had this vision and he ran with it. He knew that they would have bigger and better opportunities for growth with this new station.
While building this station, Jack new his time was short but he never gave up hope and continued working on the project until the end. Four days before Jack passed away; one of the things that he said to me was that all he wanted to see was the fire station complete. Well, he sure has one heck of a view of a beautiful fire station.
I would like to thank every single member of the WFD for continuing the vision Jack saw and keeping his memory alive by dedicating the station in his memory. I would also like to thank the Village of Waterloo and Rural Fire board for recognizing the need for expansion and improvement for the fire department. I would like to thank Sandstone construction for building such a top notch facility; Jack was so happy to find a company whom he could work with on so many different levels. On behalf of myself and my daughter Graci and the entire Rittenhouse family; thank you for this honor and dedication for my husband Jack.
One last thing, we all need to work together because WE MUST FIND A CURE!!!!!!!!"
I was a nervous mess speaking, but I did it for my husband and I did it for our family. Jack was with us the entire day that I know for sure!
So, the Waterloo Fire Department is our family and even though we aren't a huge part of it all now, we know we will always be a part of their life. They are having their annual pancake feed on Sunday, April 23rd 7am-1pm. It's a free will donation and they rely heavily on donations as they are a volunteer department. They are also having silent auction items and I donated a candle with the WFD logo on it and I created 3 cards for the auction. I will start selling these cards on my Etsy shop as I do believe they are pretty darn amazing and we need to honor all the firefighters out there that put their lives on the line daily for our safety. I am thinking I will also turn these cards into something for police officers as well. You can see the cards and candle pictured below.
I hope by anyone reading this that you think about how you can serve in your community and how your presence and good deeds are appreciated and will not go unnoticed. In hard times and scary times like Jack's cancer diagnosis, having a community rally around us, was key to our survival and our healthy grief journey. Put yourself out there and be a part of a community because remember "We are all BETTER TOGETHER".