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Ind.'s oldest vol. firefighter recognized at 90

Jack Dunkley was one of the founding members of the county fire brigade

Associated Press

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — A Vermillion County resident was recognized Sunday as the oldest active volunteer firefighter in Indiana, according to the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association.

In 1948, Jack H. Dunkley was one of six members to establish a fire brigade in Centenary in Vermillion County. By 1951, at age 29, he was a founding member of the Clinton Township Fire Department, which started with 13 men and one fire truck. A firehouse in Centenary was built in 1958.

“I went to (elementary) school right here, and then they closed it and tore it down and built (the firehouse). So the spot here has some history,” Dunkley told the Tribune-Star.

The fire department became officially recognized in 1961 and Dunkley became its first president. He later became the department’s third president and also spent seven years as secretary.

On Sunday, at age 90, Dunkley received the Indiana House of Representatives’ first resolution of 2013 in recognition of his service. Rep. Alan Morrison made the presentation.

The IVFA had previously recognized Dunkley’s 50 years of firefighter service on June 26, 2012. The IVFA has since awarded him a meritorious service award. Township Trustee Nancy Costello called Dunkley “the best example I could ever, ever talk about” of a volunteer firefighter.

Justin Nelson, fire chief of the Black Diamond Fire Department, which replaced the Clinton Township Fire Department, said Dunkley does not actively battle fires now, but attends meetings, votes and participates toward the betterment of the department, which qualifies him as an active member of the fire department.

“He is a hard worker,” Nelson said. “When we started this new department, I told everybody they will have to fill out an application and re-apply. Mr. Dunkley came in, grabbed a chair and sat down and said, ‘What do you want to talk about?’ He is a founding member of the department and he was willing to sit down and see what he could do. That tells a lot about his character,” Nelson said.

Dunkley, born Dec. 15, 1922, said a lot of things have changed since his first day as a firefighter. “After I got in, I liked it and wanted to be a part of it as long as I could. I am still here,” he chuckled. “I never figured to be 90, but here I am. It has been a good life.

“It means the world to me,” Dunkley said of the recognition on Sunday. “It is a lifetime honor. It means a lot to me to look back over the 50 years.”

He gave advice to others who many want to serve as a volunteer firefighter.

Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

“If they get a chance to belong to an organization like this, well, do so. It takes a little time out of your time, but it is all worth it,” he said. “A lot of hard work will pay off, and it helps the community.”

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Austin Schmitt Austin Schmitt Monday, January 14, 2013 11:49:05 AM Awesome. I want this to be me at 90 years old.
Karen Phelan Karen Phelan Monday, January 14, 2013 12:00:45 PM Congrats, Mr. Jack Dunkley!
Stewart P. Deveau Stewart P. Deveau Monday, January 14, 2013 12:39:43 PM Congratulations "Brother Firefighter" Jack Dunkley. Your a real inspiration to all of us.
Clifford Colson Clifford Colson Monday, January 14, 2013 3:10:47 PM Congratulations sir i hope young firefighters take ur advice if i was on your dept i sure would.
Roger Husser Sr. Roger Husser Sr. Monday, January 14, 2013 5:26:47 PM Jack, you are a dedicated person. I have been a firefighter and presently Chief at Omaha, Ar. I am 62 and been active for 44 years...... I always said if if ain't fun don't do it.. congraulations enjoy...
Kurt Jacks Kurt Jacks Tuesday, January 15, 2013 2:33:53 PM I had the honor of serving with Jack for 17 years. Congratulations Jack.
Nancy Stark Nancy Stark Tuesday, January 15, 2013 7:42:39 PM Congratulations Mr. Dunkley! Such a prestigious honor!
Kent Klingenberg Kent Klingenberg Thursday, January 24, 2013 8:22:31 PM Congratulations bother firefighter.I had 30 wonderful years in the fire service. Once a firefighter always a firefighter.

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