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'Farewell, faithful servant': Spring Valley mourns longtime fire chief

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Beloved Spring Valley Fire Chief Terry Shafer is escorted out of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Spring Valley Friday, March 3. The funeral procession took him to St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery in the town of El Paso. (Herald photo by Sarah Young)2 / 3
Retired Spring Valley Fire Chief Terry Shafer’s two sons followed him into public service. Todd is a New Richmond police officer and Chad is a Captain at United Fire and Rescue in Baldwin. (Photo courtesy of Shafer family)3 / 3

“Farewell, faithful servant. The bell has tolled.”

St. Croix County dispatch announced Spring Valley (retired) Fire Chief Terry Shafer’s end of watch and final page at 1:45 p.m. Friday, March 3 over the scanner as he was being laid to rest in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in the town of El Paso.

Hundreds of firefighters, emergency medical personnel, family and friends attended Shafer’s funeral at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Spring Valley at 11 a.m. Shafer was escorted to his final resting place atop the fire truck the village purchased brand new in 1992, under Shafer’s watch.

A line of firetrucks and emergency vehicles followed Shafer and his family along McKay Avenue, onto Highway 29, turning on County Road CC, passing Shafer’s family farm at the intersection of CC and County Road G, before heading west to El Paso.

“Terry was raised on the family farm at the intersection of CC and G and it has significant meaning to the family to drive by the family farm one last time,” Shafer’s relative Andy Vorlicek said.

Shafer died Saturday, Feb. 25, while on a weekend trip with his brothers. He was 62.

Retired Spring Valley Fire Chief Terry Shafer was the grand marshal for the 2014 Dam Days parade. (Photo courtesy Shafer family)

Many who knew Shafer had a chuckle Friday morning, because he was sometimes running behind and late to gatherings. It was fitting then, that his funeral coincided with Spring Valley/Elmwood wrestling heading to state Friday morning, the “Donuts with Dads” event at the elementary school, plus the elementary school had an early release day at the same time. Everything colliding at once.

Representatives from as far away as Green Bay came to honor Shafer. A firefighter from Augusta estimated more than 300 public servants gathered.

Shafer joined Spring Valley Fire in 1979 and began wearing the white chief’s helmet in 1986. Although he passed the chief title on to longtime Assistant Fire Chief Mike Fitzjarrell Jan. 1, he said in an interview with the Herald in January that he couldn’t imagine not being on the fire department. He was also a member of Spring Valley Ambulance for 20 years and served on the Pierce County Fire Officers committee, among many other community activities.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a proclamation, ordering all flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Shafer March 3.

Comments by others

Community members share their favorite memories of Shafer.

Spring Valley Assistant Director of EMS Brad Jorgenson, speaking on behalf of the ambulance and fire departments

“We as a family at Spring Valley Area Emergency Services are deeply saddened by the loss of Terry Shafer

“Terry was the definition of a leader, always there to support his fellow man at any expense.

“We will always remember Terry for his forward thinking, extraordinary leadership, and compassion for our community. We extend our deepest sympathy to his loved ones during this time of loss.”

Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove

“Terry was the guy that would sit back and listen and not say much. But when he did speak everyone listened. He cared about everyone.

“When he would be working on a grant for the county or counties he was always concerned on how this was going to help all, and not just his area. Terry was a huge asset to this county, a great friend and mentor and will be greatly missed by all.”

Spring Valley firefighter and village trustee Andy Vorlicek

“Words connect express the great sadness that the community of Spring Valley has suffered with the loss of Terry Shafer. Terry had been such an integral part of our community and everyone who knew him or had any interactions with him would agree.

“He was a 38 year member of the Spring Valley Area Fire Department with 30 years as the Fire Chief and a 20-year member of the Spring Valley Area Ambulance.

“Terry has donated thousands of hours of his personal time for the betterment of our community. His efforts while leading the fire department have placed our members on a very solid foundation that we continue to grow and improve upon. Not only was Terry my Fire Chief, he was also a close family member. He was my father's best friend and there are too many memories for me to attempt to pick one to share. This fire truck was purchased in 1992. It is the same truck that carried Terry Shafer's casket. (Photo courtesy Shafer family)

“I don't know where I would be today if it wasn't for the influence that Terry has had on me. As a kid, I spent many hours with him at the fire station and going to fire department functions and emergencies. I wanted to be Terry when I grew up and our interactions motivated me to joining the fire department during high school, enlisting in the Air Force to train as a firefighter, attending paramedic school, joining the Saint Paul Fire Department and ultimately promoting to Fire Captain and receiving a commission in the Air Force.

“It was at paramedic school where I met my wife and our two children loved Terry as much as we did. No matter how busy Terry was, he would always take the time to visit with people and would entertain children.

“The Village Board was able to present him with a plaque for his service to our community at our January board meeting and we are so grateful to have been able to recognize him for his service. There wasn't a single project in town that Terry hasn't been involved with and our community has lost a great friend. I was so fortunate to have been able to have visited with Terry twice the day of his passing. It will help to comfort my family and I as we all mourn his loss.”

Spring Valley Village Clerk Luann Emerson

“I haven’t worked very long with Terry but he stopped in my office frequently to check on village happenings, let me know what the ‘word around town’ was, or to get the ‘in’ on previous night’s board meetings. He would update me on the history of certain situations so I could fully understand what was going on, tell me how a certain event took place, or just fill me in knowing I was the new kid on the block. He was a wealth of information! I will miss his smiling face walking through the door.”

Village President Marsha Brunkhorst

“As the Spring Valley Village President and a member of the Spring Valley Area Fire Association, I have interacted with Terry Shafer for the last 28 years. As the Fire Chief, he was present at the majority of our Village Board meetings, both to update the Board on any fire service activities and requests. He was never afraid to provide his opinion and insight on ongoing Village projects. As a person who was always involved in many aspects of the Village – with his electrical business and the fire department, Terry brought valuable insights to our project discussions.

“As the Fire Chief, Terry was very committed to ensuring that the department was equipped with the best equipment, gear and up to date training for his crew. Always pushing to make sure the department needs were fully understood at budget time. He worked diligently to search out grants and cost share opportunities to supplement the funds available in the Village and Fire Association budgets. His presence will be greatly missed.”

Former Prescott Fire Chief Bill Dravis

“One of the finest gentlemen I have ever had the privilege to work with. He loves his department and his community he served. Many can learn from the way he served his community.”

Julie Ducklow

“Our paths continued to cross in our adult lives from being on the Shafer Electric ‘Shafer Shocker’ couples volleyball team in the 1980s to Spring Valley community projects,” Ducklow said. “Most notably for me is how for many years Terry made sure the FD assisted with hanging the SV village flower pots up each spring and took them down each fall.”

Diane Huebel

“He never let us get near the fire truck without a brief orientation on safety of getting into and riding on the fire truck,” Huebel recalled. “I talked to Terry just 10 days ago, and he said he would be hanging our baskets again and that he was not retired from helping the Spring Valley Gardeners. I have a feeling our baskets will flourish this spring.”

Village trustee Mary Ducklow

“Terry helped with such a wide range of things for Spring Valley, from the trout pond to making sure everyone had electricity for Dam Days to making sure all the Village flags were at half mast when they needed to be.

“Terry always approached whatever he was doing with such enthusiasm and pride that it definitely would rub off on everyone around him.”

Nancy Kinsman

“Terry was always willing to help. I have the first Habitat for Humanity home in Spring Valley. He wired my home and put all of the fixtures in and he donated his time and supplies. Like one of my sons said, you will always remember him when you turn on your lights.

“He was a light to the community of Spring Valley and far beyond. I have had the honor of serving with him on the ambulance service for 20 years. Terry was one of the most honest and caring men I have ever had the privilege to know. May God grant him and his family peace.”

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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