Huss-Keutzer-Anderson family helps to provide important services
TONICA — In recently joining the Tonica Volunteer Fire Department as a cadet, Cody Anderson is carrying on a tradition that dates back five generations in his family and more than three-quarters of a century.
The Tonica Fire Department was started in 1901, and then reorganized into the current Tonica Volunteer Fire Department in 1938.
Harry “Hap” Huss, Cody’s great-great-grandfather, joined and started volunteering in 1943. At that time, Hap had no idea his 39 years of serving would have such an impact on the family.
Hap’s two sons, Duane and Gary, both joined to do their part to help others. Duane joined in 1959, serving for 11 years, and Gary joined in 1962, serving for 39 years.
Both Hap and Duane held the title of fire chief.
In 1978, Hap’s daughter, Rita, joined the department and served for nine years as an EMT.
Gary was in the first EMT class offered in the area, and in 1972 became the first Tonica Fire Department EMT. Getting an ambulance and having EMTs in town would eliminate waiting for an ambulance from Peru.
In 1975, Gary Huss speared-headed the idea of an ambulance service being provided by the fire department. With the addition of an ambulance, the fire department would advance from providing basic first aid service to being able to provide a higher level of emergency medical care, with patient transport to area hospitals.
The Tonica Volunteer Fire Department ambulance would provide emergency service to the village of Tonica, Eden Township, Leonore and Cedar Point areas, as it still does today.
In 1990, with the third generation, the family volunteerism continued. David Huss, Gary’s son, became a firefighter. Also that year, Gary’s son-in-law, Kurt Keutzer, helped to carry on that family’s tradition.
In 1996, David’s wife, Sue, joined the Tonica Volunteer Fire Department, completed the EMT class, and continued on to obtain her paramedic license. This upgraded the department’s ambulance from a Basic Unit to a Class “I.” Sue was also the first TVFD paramedic.
In 1992, Gary’s daughter, Mary Kay (Huss) Keutzer, joined the department as a radio operator. The third generation is still active on the department.
In 1995, the fourth generation, Gary’s first grandson, Todd Anderson, became a junior firefighter and then moved on to be a certified firefighter. Todd has held various positions of responsibility over his career with the department, including serving as fire chief. Todd also obtained his EMT license, and currently serves as captain.
Following with the family tradition, two of Hap’s great-grandsons joined the department. Brad Keutzer (2008) became a firefighter-EMT, along with Derek Keutzer (2010) becoming a firefighter and ambulance driver.
Recently, the fifth generation of this family has joined as a cadet.
Cody Anderson, the great-great-grandson of Hap, has joined in responding to the call for help. When Cody was asked why he wanted to carry on this tradition, he stated that he wanted to give back to the community, and wanted to help others.
He also said that remembering family in the fire trucks during parades, and helping with the pork chop dinner was another family memory of Tonica Fire Department.”
Over the years, many dedicated families from the Tonica area have volunteered to serve and help when people are in need. Active members are still dedicating hours to training, responding to calls for help and fundraising.
There is a great need for more volunteers, while the Tonica Volunteer Fire Department continues to provide emergency fire, ambulance and rescue services to the TVFD area without property taxation.
A spokesman said: “Helping someone when they are having a bad day is very rewarding. You could make a difference in someone’s life. The impact you will have on others will last a lifetime.”
The cadet program is open to applicants 16 through 17 years of age. Applicants to the cadet program must have parental consent, maintain a C grade point average or above or have a high school diploma, be able to follow orders, complete and pass a CPR class within one year, and complete a new member orientation training.
Cadets are focused on training with limited firefighting activities. If you know anyone who may be interested in becoming a cadet or junior firefighter (ages 18-20), contact Chief Al Stremlau or an active member of the Tonica Volunteer Fire Department.