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Fire district’s Schaefer retires after 25 years with department

By Gene Sears

After a lengthy career with the Fort Lupton Fire Protection District, Nona Schaefer steps down this week following a celebration Friday.
    It’s the end of more than a quarter-century with the district, during which she came to know nearly everyone in the community.

    After a two-year run as a secretary at Fort Lupton Middle School, Schaefer was hired on with the fire district, spending the next 25 years there as executive secretary. She replaced then-secretary Rose Bowles, who handled the duties in the evenings while working as city clerk for Fort Lupton. Schaefer followed Larry Richardson, the city’s first paid firefighter in 1985, on to the district rolls in 1987. In the ensuing two and a half decades, Schaefer worked with dozens of firefighters and thousands of citizens, with a personal touch for each.
    She also served on the citizen advisory panel for the Weld RE-8 School District, is active with the Cavalry Lutheran Church, trained adults for the Division of Local Governments for elections, volunteered as a 4H leader for more than 10 years. Another local organization familiar with her and Richardson was the Fort Lupton Food and Clothing Bank, where the two unloaded cars for years.
    Schaefer’s plans now include more time with her grandkids, two each from her daughters Jeanelle Wise and Corinne Gabel. 
    “Jocelyn is the oldest, she just turned 10,” Schaefer said. “Trent is the youngest, he just turned 1. Clay will be 4 at the end of November, and Riley is 5.”
    Her husband Charlie works at American Pride. He’s a retired fire district volunteer with 10 years service.
    While spending time with family is high on her list, she will miss the district family, uniformed and civilian.
    “Of course, the fire department is a family, with the camaraderie, the close relationships,” Schaefer said. “All the people. That is what I will miss the most. All the community members that I have gotten to know for such a long time.”
    In addition to her secretarial duties, Schaefer ran herd on the budget for Station Two, managing finances, documents and project flow for the project, a huge endeavor. She also served as dispatcher at times, among other duties.
    “We used to have, when the fire department was dispatched from the fire department, someone to man the radio. A lot of times I did that, so I was calling for public service or whatever additional service that they needed.”
    “Of course, back in the day we were all volunteer, so I was chief in charge of all the kids,” Schaefer added. “So I babysat a lot of the kids when we got a call.”
    Kids were always a focus for the department, from fire prevention to rescues, some that Schaefer remembers fondly.
    “I remember one time, Chuck Rankin was chief,” Schaefer said. “He was an oil pumper, so he was in the area at certain times, and I had a walk-in. A grandfather came in with his 2-year-old granddaughter who had taken a steel nut and screwed it on to her little pinky finger. Of course, they couldn’t get it off, they were on the verge of panic. Chuck sat down with this little girl on his lap, and got some lotion and just unthreaded the nut bit by bit. There was no tears shed, no panic or anything. She got a little teddy bear, and everyone went away happy.”
    The memories are what Schaefer takes with her, good and bad, but she focuses on the fun ones.
    “A lot of funny stories. A lot of funny stories, and a lot of tragedies too,” Schaefer recalled.
    One of her better memories is what she calls “the goat incident.”
    At the time of the incident, Sherry Newkirk was a police officer for the town, and Carol and Bernie Lucero lived south of town, where Carol trained sheepdogs. Accordingly, she had a small herd of sheep, which escaped one night when the Lucero’s fence came down.
    “The week before Sherry had a run-in with a billy goat in Hudson, so she had experience with goats and wasn’t about to take any chances,” she said. “So she had her pistol unleashed, because we had a sheep in the back lot. We also called Leann Long, from the animal hospital, to come down and help.”
    Adding to the comedic drama, dozens of kids and parents lined the fence to watch the roundup, the kids enjoying their spring break entertainment.
    “There we were, trying to catch the sheep,” Schaefer said. “Sherry was just going to shoot it, she wasn’t taking any chances. I had a coffee can, and we put some pebbles in thinking we could make it sound like it was grain.”
    Then the posse moved in for the capture.
    “Leann came at it from one angle, I came from another and (FLFD fire captain) Terry Schrader was blocking the escape,” Schaefer said. “The sheep came running right for Terry, and he just bulldogged it, (yelling) “Nona, do they bite? Nona, do they bite? “ I was laughing so hard, I wasn’t able to help!”
    For more stories, and a chance to help send Schaefer off with a celebration, stop by Station Two (The Fort Lupton Training Center), 2999 Ninth St., between 1 and 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2. There will be a presentation at 4 p.m.

Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at
gsears@metrowestnewspapers.com.