06-22-2017 Community mourns retired Hartford Fire Department Chief; Bill Smith appointed to Berrien

Community mourns retired Hartford Fire Department Chief

By Jon Bisnett

They lined the pews of the Hartford United Methodist Church on Monday June 12 as the community of Hartford joined with firefighters representing departments across the state to celebrate the life of retired fire chief Harold “Cocky” Walker Jr.

With over four decades of service to the local Hartford Fire Department Walker’s ties to the brotherhood of firefighters extended far beyond the borders of Hartford as was evidenced by those literally all across the Midwest who sent their condolences upon the news of his passing.

Six Degrees of Separation

It’s been a running joke with this reporter that nearly every time any story is told of the history of Hartford, that there is only six degrees of separation from Cocky Walker. Whether it starts with “Back when Cocky was chief…” or references to “Walker’s 66 Station” or when “Cocky Walker worked for the city” or for the school, it is just about impossible to separate the man from the town of Hartford he loved dearly and served for decades. The man was everywhere!

Those who attended the memorial service will chuckle when I say that at times the eulogies took on the flavor of a roast more than a traditional funeral. The notoriously strong-willed Walker earned his nickname “Cocky” over the years as an individual that seldom knew to compromise. But by the same token carried the respect of most he came in contact with due to his uncanny ability to lead, manage, assess and develop solutions.

For all the various hats Cocky wore over the years countless individuals remember him as mentor. That guy you could sit down and have a good talk with and know somehow he’d have some thoughts that could shed a different light or a better way to approach the situation.

Known as an exceptional trainer in firefighting certifications, many may not know Cocky worked for the University of Michigan long before statewide certifications existed, teaching an early firefighters course that ultimately led to the programs now considered standard training for all firefighters.

Recognized also as an innovator, it’s said that Walker was one of the early proponents of fighting fire with fire. In the days when Cocky’s father preceded him as fire chief the standard operating procedure was for the truck to arrive on scene and pour as much water as possible until the fire was extinguished. Cocky was an early promoter of the discipline whereby firefighters would penetrate the structure and disrupt the fire from the inside out, limiting the spread by sealing off paths for the fire to follow.

Retired Hartford Fire Dept. Chief

Harold “Cocky” Walker Jr.

Understand that Cocky held no degree in engineering or thermal dynamics but was just really good at figuring things out. Researching this article revealed a 1950s story in the Hartford Day Spring archive where Cocky, working for the city was experimenting with an idea on how to keep the sidewalks clear of snow by running heated water pipes underneath the concrete and a fan on top to dry the melted snow.

Even in his later years, long after retiring from active duty, Cocky would often answer the call alongside the HFD and could be observed studying the scene. And whether he wanted to or not, the active chief would typically get a bit of advice as to what might have been done better. Always learning and always teaching; driven to find a better solution to fight the fire. Known of course for his huge level of knowledge, but even better recognized for his applied wisdom is how his contemporaries describe Cocky.

There is no doubt that “Cocky” came by his nickname for good reason, but it certainly helps to be right a large percentage of the time, especially when founded with a great deal of common sense and many years of experience.

Walker’s reputation in the fire service industry extended far beyond the borders of Michigan. Cocky maintained his own fire apparatus business for over a decade not to mention his work as a product development consultant and salesman for fire truck fabricator Spencer Manufacturing of South Haven, which put him in contact with departments from several states.

Even after health issues necessitated his formal retirement, you could still find Cocky holding court at dollar-burger night at the Arrowhead, always glad to shake a hand, lend an ear and give you his thoughts.

There are always movers and shakers in any small town. Then again there are those special individuals who resonate even after they leave us.

Merriam Webster defines “Iconic” as “widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence.” I think Cocky would have liked that. Let’s just say that an icon of the Community of Hartford has passed and he will truly be missed.

Bill Smith appointed to Berrien County Road Commission

By Annette Christie

Known as a former Coloma City Commissioner, former Berrien County Commissioner, former teacher and administrator, and current Berrien County Board of Public Works member, Bill Smith can now add Road Commissioner to his resume.

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners voted to appoint him on June 8 to a vacancy left by Tim Lynch who stepped down near the end of May.  Smith’s application had been on file with Berrien County for less than a year so it remained valid.  The Board of Commissioners did take applications.

Smith went to his first Road Commission meeting on June 14.  The Road Commission is without a fifth member who can vote and is without a Managing Director.  As it was in 2013, some citizen complaints and observations are sending the Board of Commissioners in a direction to review the possibility of taking over the Road Commission and having it become a county department.  They have given direction to County Administrator Bill Wolf to update the feasibility study that was done in 2013 to provide the most accurate and current information.

Bill Hodge was recently re-instated by Berrien County Trial Court Judge John Donahue to the Road Commission but later was ordered to not vote on any issues.  Hodge’s seat became vacant last November upon Hodge being elected Bainbridge Township Supervisor. The Berrien County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on December 1, 2016 which declared that the position that Hodge filled on the Road Commission was vacant due to the Incompatibility of Offices Act (MCL 15.181 et seq). The court has not ruled on the issue of incompatibility as of yet.

It is expected to take 5-6 weeks before the up-to-date feasibility study will be reviewed by the Board of Commissioners.

Smith is representing District 1 which encompasses Watervliet, Coloma, Hagar, Bainbridge, Sodus, and Pipestone townships.  He has attended the Coloma Charter Township and Watervliet Charter Township board meetings and has commented that he is feeling his way around and will do what he needs to do on the Road Commission.

The next Berrien County Road Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 28 at 9:00 a.m. at their offices.

Berrien County holding 1st annual resource fair for families on July 13

 The Berrien County Trial Court is sponsoring the 1st Annual Berrien County Foster/Adoption/Kinship Resource Fair to provide more resources for the families who foster or adopt children.  The Trial Court is partnering with Berrien County DHHS, God’s Hands 4 Kids, and the Bethany Post-Adoptive Resource Center.

This is an all ages, free event that will provide resources for adults and fun activities for the children.  Local counselors, medical providers, support groups, foster care closets, emergency responders, adoption agencies, foster care agencies, grief services, and portrait photographers are just a few of the areas that will have representatives present.

The event will be held Thursday, July 13 from 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Prairie Wolf Park in Berrien Springs.  The park is located on the corner of S. Main Street & Park Avenue in Berrien Springs.

Watervliet City Planning Commission needs members

By Annette Christie

The City of Watervliet is looking for applicants to serve on the city’s Planning Commission. As a City Planning Commissioner member you will be in the forefront of the development of the City of Watervliet.

If residents of the City of Watervliet have a desire to give something back to their community or if they want to see development happen, this is the invitation to be a part of that discussion.

The City of Watervliet is about to undertake an updated look at the master plan for development as well as updating the Capital Improvement Plan.

Interested parties can visit Watervliet City Hall to apply or email their interest to the clerk at clerk@watervliet.org.   Applicants must be a resident of the City of Watervliet.

Planning Commission members receive a $40 per meeting stipend for their time.

Applications will continue to be accepted until they fill all the open positions.

Senior Services

Hartford United Methodist Church, 425 E. Main Street

 Monday, June 26 Coffee & Conversation, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; LUNCH served at 12:30 p.m.; Cards, 1:00 p.m.; Bingo, 1:15 p.m.; Knitting, Crocheting & Quilting, 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 27 Coffee & Conversation, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; LUNCH served at 12:30 p.m.; Euchre / Hand & Foot, 1:00 p.m.; Computer help / Knitting & Crocheting, 1:30 p.m.

Friday, June 30 Coffee & Conversation, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; Tai Chi, 11:30 a.m.; LUNCH served at 12:30 p.m.; Cards & Games, 1:00 p.m.

All seniors, age 60 and older, residing in Van Buren County are eligible to participate in these programs and activities.

Any questions or comments, please contact Senior Services Paw Paw office at 269-655-8000. Rides are available through Van Buren Public Transit with no less than 24-hour advance notice at (269) 427-7921.

Food Trucks are back!

Van Buren Senior Services is pleased to offer several food trucks for the remainder of 2017. The time is 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Wednesday, July 12, Senior City, 10781 76th Street, South Haven; Wednesday August 9, the Lions Club, 277 CR 665, Paw Paw; Wednesday, October 11, Hartford UMC, 425 E. Main, Hartford; Wednesday, November 8, Senior City, 10781 76th Street, South Haven; Wednesday, December 13, Lions Club, 277 CR 665, Paw Paw

Please come prepared for the weather. Bring water to drink during the hot weather. If you have any questions, please call Apiffany Ryno at 269-637-3607.


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