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.
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“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.”