The Aurora Fire Department's
150th Anniversary patches have arrived!
(read an article about them below)
Patches are $5 each and may be purchased by both firefighters and members of the general public from the Aurora Regional Fire Museum, or the Aurora Fire Department.
Aurora Beacon News - April 26, 2006
Patch created for 150th anniversary
By Andre Salles, Staff Writer
AURORA - History is all about perspective, about seeing one's place in the timeline of events, and being able to trace ideas and organizations through the lives of the people involved.
That's what the Aurora Fire Department's ongoing 150th anniversary celebration is all about, and no component of it fulfills that definition of history quite like the new commemorative badges being issued to firefighters and paramedics.
Designed as a replica of the ones worn by Aurora firefighters at the turn of the 20th century, the new badges will be worn only this year, and are intended as a keepsake. More than just identification, the new badges include a number which corresponds to each firefighter's place in department history.
Determining those numbers took months of work, spearheaded by Aurora Regional Fire Museum Curator David Lewis. He went through old rosters, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks to put together the first official accounting of every paid member of the Aurora Fire Department, listed chronologically.
"We thought it would be easy," Lewis said with a laugh. "We worked from four different lists that were started over the years, and none of them proved to be accurate."
The list is complete now, though, and it runs from the department's first full-time paid employee - Adam Schoeberlein, hired in 1875 - to its most recent recruit, Keith O'Donnell, who came aboard in September of last year. O'Donnell is the 548th firefighter in AFD history, and he'll soon have a badge to prove it.
According to Assistant Fire Chief John Lehman, every career firefighter in the department will receive a badge with his or her number on it. Additionally, surviving retirees will each get one - 102 in total - and family members of deceased firefighters can request one as a memento, for $30.
Lehman said that the idea has been in the works for a long time, and he gave credit to retired Assistant Chief Scott Hankes for coming up with it eight years ago. The chronological system hearkens back to a time when each firefighter would receive a number based on seniority, and when one retired, everyone had to trade badges to get their new number.
"It's nice for families, so you can see where your relatives are in the list," Hankes said. "It gives a perspective of your history with the entire department."
Hankes would know what that feels like - his father was an Aurora firefighter, as was his wife's father. His great-uncle, Charles Hoffman, was one of three Aurora firefighters killed in the Woolworth fire of 1934 when the downtown building collapsed.
"I first talked about the idea with the chief (Jerry Stevens), and he said it was a neat idea, but we never had an event to raise money for it," Hankes said. "The 150th anniversary is the perfect time."
Also hitting the streets this month is the new commemorative patch, chiefly designed by Capt. Mark Robinson. The department held an open call for drawings for the new patch, and received eight entries, Lewis said.
The final design, which incorporates a ladder and a fire hose in the shape of the number 150, also uses some smaller elements from a couple of the entries, according to Lewis.
The patch will also be worn by all firefighters until the end of the year, and anyone who wants one as a keepsake can buy one from the Fire Department or the Regional Fire Museum for $5. The patches are on sale now.
All of this leads up to the AFD's three-day anniversary event in June, complete with parades, firefighting demonstrations and contests. For information, call the Fire Museum at (630) 892-1572, or log onto www.auroraregionalfiremuseum.org.