Helping others in life and death
Former volunteer's family donates $6,000 for fire equipment
Janel Snyder remembers the middle-of-the-night fire calls and how keen her father was to answer.
Jerry Kokenge kept this undated photo of the Carroll Fire Department near his computer.
The beeper would beep, and he’d slide out of bed and dress in a hurry.
She’d watched as he strapped on his boots that lay near the front door and put his firefighter’s light on top of his truck and raced down the street to the fire station.
He wanted to be part of the action. The adrenaline. He wanted to help.
He was Jerry Kokenge. And when he died of a heart attack in February, his wife and daughters insisted that — instead of flowers — people send donations for the Carroll Fire Department.
“I knew he would like that. He definitely would,” said Gayle Kokenge, Jerry’s wife. “He enjoyed helping people.”
Jerry Kokenge, 67, was a volunteer for the department for 16 years starting in 1977. He worked on electrical lines for MidAmerican Energy and used that expertise to aid his fellow firefighters.
So when his family donated about $6,000 to the department this year, Fire Chief Greg Schreck used some of the money to buy a device that pulls electricity meters, to cut power to houses and other buildings to protect his men while they are battling blazes.
Kokenge is a Kuemper Catholic High School alum of 1962 who enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served four years in Texas and Iceland. He served another six years in the U.S. Army Reserves.
He married Gayle in 1966 and lived most of the rest of his life in Carroll.
Gayle Kokenge said her husband first joined the fire department to spend more time with his firefighter buddies. They would play cards after the department meetings.
Long after he left the department he kept a framed black-and-white photo (pictured above) near his computer of the fire crew he loved so much.
He kept strict rules to promote fire safety in his house, his daughter Janel recalled. That meant that they did not use real Christmas trees or candles — even though his wife loved the smell of both.
The donated money was also used to buy special safety jacks to stabilize vehicles after crashes while firefighters try to rescue people trapped inside. The remaining money bought new helmets and boots.
“The department is very grateful to the Kokenge family for their very generous contribution and, as a result, we can better serve the people of our community,” Schreck wrote to the Daily Times Herald. “I think Jerry would be proud.
“Jerry’s family understood his love for the department that only a firefighter’s family can.”
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