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Lieutenant's Retirement Ends Family's 77 Years of Orland Fire Service

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

December 31, 2014 (ORLAND PARK. IL) - When Orland Fire Protection District Lieutenant Gerald Klotz, Jr. hung up his bunker gear for the last time on December 30, 2014, it meant the end of an era. The third generation Orland firefighter is part of a long line dating back to 1937.

A lifelong resident of Orland Park, Klotz was the first baby born in the region in 1965. "There weren't as many people living out here," Klotz said chuckling. "I was the New Year baby for the region when I was born at Silver Cross on January 2," he said.

"Serving Orland Fire has been a tradition in my family. All of my grandparents were involved with the department along with my dad, one of my uncles and my older sister," Klotz said. "My paternal grandfather, Hank Klotz, joined the then Orland Park Volunteer Fire Department in 1937. My grandmothers, Bernadette Klotz and Eleanor Voss, were active in the Women's Auxiliary," he said.

Hank Klotz was assigned badge number one in 1937 and 46 years later, his grandson was assigned badge number 100 when he was hired full-time in 1983. Klotz's maternal grandfather, Paul Voss, was a founding member of the Orland Fire Protection District when it was formed in 1969. Orland Fire Station #2, at 151st Street and 80th Avenue, is dedicated to Voss's memory.

"The Orland Park Volunteer Fire Department broke off from the Village of Orland Park in the late 60s and formed the Orland Fire Protection District," Klotz explained. "My grandfather, Paul Voss, was one of the district's first board members," he said.

Both of Klotz's grandfathers worked their way through the ranks, serving as firefighters, officers, deputy chiefs and chiefs. Klotz's father, Gerald Klotz, Sr., was a longtime Orland firefighter, officer, deputy chief and served on the Orland Fire Protection Board of Trustees most recently as board president in the early 90s. Klotz's uncle, Richard Klotz, was on the department in the mid-1950s.

"I have great memories of going to the firehouse with my grandfather and my dad," Klotz, Jr. recalled. "We lived on Beacon Avenue and the firehouse was where the Old Village Hall still stands at 14415 South Beacon," he said, adding, "My grandparents lived across the street from us and when the fire alarm sounded, my dad and grandfather would run up the street to the firehouse to jump on the rig to respond. That's one of our favorite family stories --- my dad throwing on his gear as he ran the half block to the firehouse," Klotz said.

A white clapboard two story building at the current Beacon Avenue Old Village Hall site housed the village hall and fire department dating back to the early 1890s.The senior Klotz was part of the volunteer crew that built the current Old Village Hall in 1961. Orland Fire Station #1, at 9790 West 151st Street, opened in 1974 and village offices moved to the Ravinia Avenue Village Center in 1989.

Gerald Klotz, Jr. began serving as a cadet for Orland Fire in 1980 and served as a paid-on-call/volunteer firefighter from 1983 to 1988. In January, 1988 he was hired as a full-time firefighter/paramedic and in August, 1993 was promoted to lieutenant. He has served as the gold shift lieutenant at Orland Fire Station #6, 17460 Wolf Road, for the last 15 years. Klotz holds a number of certifications in fire service and management and is an alumnus of Carl Sandburg High School.

"I've spent my entire life with Orland Fire and there have been many families who have been a part of the department since it formed in the early 1890s. I'm very proud that our family is a big part of that history," Klotz said.

A highlight of Klotz's career was his involvement with the local, state and national award winning CART/LAAP Committee (Combined Agencies to Reduce Trauma/Local Alcohol Awareness Program). "CART/LAAP was a cooperative effort between the fire district, the village and area hospitals to educate people on the life saving effects of safety belts and the life threatening effects of drunk driving," Klotz explained.

Formed in the late 1980s, the group conducted student body presentations at area high schools with firsthand perspectives offered by victims of drunk driving. The collaboration also produced the national award winning 30-minute docudrama, "Shattered Lives – Shattered Dreams," with volunteers from a number of area emergency agencies.

"CART/LAAP was a great program spearheaded by Bill Bonnar, Sr. and Dave Kohlstedt. We were able to bring the firsthand experiences of first responders and drunk driving victims to young people, making them think about the choices they make," said Klotz, who served as the group's president in the early 90s.

Klotz's civic involvement was recognized in 2013 when he was named to the Consolidated High School District 230 Legacy Hall of Fame. Klotz has been involved in scouts for 20 years, helping with his daughter's Girl Scout activities and serving as a Boy Scout den leader, cubmaster and scoutmaster. He is the founding scoutmaster of the national award winning Orland Park Boy Scout Troop 383.

He also coached girls' softball, baseball and both boys' and girls' basketball for the Orland Youth Association. He served as a volunteer coach for the Tinley Park Bobcats Baseball and Orland Hills Wolves Football.

In May, 2010, the Orland Park Lions Club named him grand marshal of the Orland Days Parade, a salute to the Boy Scouts of America's 100th Anniversary. Klotz was chosen having been an Orland Park Boy Scout as a youth and a longtime Orland Park scout leader.

Klotz and his wife, Margie Owens-Klotz, have two children, Stephanie, 26 and Timothy, 15, a freshman at Providence Catholic High School.

Describing his plans for retirement, Klotz said, "We have a number of boys in Troop 383 who are well on their way to reaching Eagle Scout. I look forward to helping them achieve that goal. I also want to continue working and am looking at different options."

Asked about a fourth generation Klotz serving on Orland Fire, Klotz said, "Our Tim is just a freshman in high school so he has a ways to go before he looks at a career in fire service. Football is his passion right now but if he chooses fire service, he'll want to be chief," he said smiling.

Looking back on his 30 plus years of service, Klotz said, "I've met some great people. That's one of the perks of being a part of a fire crew. They're your second family and the fire house camaraderie is second to none. That's what I'll miss the most."

Caption: The December 30 retirement of Orland Fire Protection District Lieutenant Gerald Klotz, Jr. marked the end of a 77 year family history with Orland Fire. Klotz was the third generation Orland firefighter in his family.


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