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The Daily



10-06-03: Local community, firefighters bid farewell


NEW BREMEN — Volunteers Ken Jutte and John Garman have answered their final call with the New Bremen-German Township Fire Department and gone home.
Memorial services held during the weekend for the firefighters featured the somber ringing of the bell — three peals in quick succession repeated three times. Tears rolled down the cheeks of some firefighters as the bell shattered the stillness of The Church of the Holy Redeemer. The tradition dates back to a bygone era when firemen were summoned to service and then discharged by bells instead of pagers.
“He has given his best. Our brother has answered his last alarm. He has gone home,” a uniformed comrade told the standing room only crowds after the ringing of the bells at the memorial services Friday and Sunday evening.
The men, part of a brotherhood dedicated to service, paid the ultimate sacrifice. Both died of injuries sustained Wednesday morning in a fire and explosion at Hoge Lumber Co. in nearby New Knoxville.
Nearly a thousand people came for Jutte’s Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday morning at the church where he was a communion distributor. Similar numbers are expected when Garman is laid to rest this morning following a 10:30 a.m. Mass at the same church where he had served as an usher.
People filed slowly past Jutte’s casket Friday evening and Saturday. A child’s colorful drawing rested at his feet. Neatly printed letters spelled out the message “He is my hero.” Two angels decorated each corner.
“Ken believed in service,” the Rev. Larry Hemmelgarn said during a eulogy for his cousin. “Ultimately, it was that willingness to be of service that brought him to that call Wednesday.”
Looking out over the mourners, he added “We celebrate a life well lived and a man well loved.”
Laughter replaced tears as Hemmel-garn described the 44-year-old Jutte as a “jokester” in life and that penchant apparently followed him into the hereafter. The priest talked of jotting down notes on a yellow legal pad and then using those notes to write out the eulogy in its entirety. Prior to approaching the podium, he reached into his pocket for the text.
“I found the notes and not the homily,” Hemmelgarn said shaking his head. “We all know Ken could be a jokester. I think he proved it again one last time.”
At the conclusion of the service, the white cloth covering Jutte’s casket was replaced with the American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol on Friday. Sent via overnight carrier, it arrived early Saturday morning. A shiny firefighter’s helmet rested atop the flag.
Led by bagpiper and New Bremen native Tim Dicke of Cincinnati and the Mercer County Fire Association Color Guard, the procession passed beneath an arch formed by a Shawnee Fire Department bucket truck and a Shelby County Fire Department ladder truck. A large American flag suspended from the archway flapped loudly in the autumn breeze. The wind also played with black ribbons decorating New Bremen truck 6641 as the casket was loaded aboard for the ride to German Protestant Cemetery.
Fire trucks that began converging on New Bremen shortly after dawn moved along village streets and joined the procession with lights flashing. Mourners lined the route from Eastmoor Drive to Ohio 274 to Ohio 66. Many wiped tears; others stood with hats in hand. A young boy standing near Schwieterman’s Pharmacy saluted as the truck bearing the casket rolled by. A group of women waved large American flags.
Firehouse route
The route took Jutte, an 18-year veteran, past the firehouse for the last time. His turnout gear — the coat and helmet bearing his surname and a pair of boots — were on a chair out front.
It took nearly 45 minutes for all the fire trucks, rescue squad units and police cruisers to reach the cemetery. They parked two abreast filling all the surrounding roads.
Fellow firefighter Scott Albers sat in a wheelchair with his New Bremen comrades as the flag-draped casket was gently lifted from the truck.
Albers’ hand shook as he saluted the man he had worked beside atop the 71-foot silo Wednesday morning. When the explosion blew off the lid on which they had been standing, Jutte fell one way and the 23-year-old Albers fell the other, landing in a dumpster filled with sawdust and cardboard. Luckily, he missed the one end containing chunks of cement and metal rods. He suffered a fractured leg and wrist as well as some back injuries.
Albers told doctors repeatedly that he wanted to go back home to be with his “brothers” and they discharged him from St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima early Saturday morning.
The pallbearers — fellow members of the New Bremen department — allowed relatives to carry the casket the final steps to the gravesite.
“Amazing Grace” was played on the bagpipe. Columbus firefighters, part of a contingent that came on two buses, provided the thundering 21-gun salute.
A salute
Montezuma Fire Chief Roger Davenport and Celina Fire Department volunteer Mike Bernstein removed the flag from the casket and deftly folded it into the shape of a triangle. Then New Bremen Fire Chief Bob Kuck and Assistant Fire Chief Steve McDermit presented it to Jutte’s wife Martha. She cradled it to her chest as tears flowed freely. She turned and gave one more backward glance before walking away with her children.
Representatives from 100 fire departments, including some from Chicago, Ill., and Detroit, Mich., came for the funeral. Some went to a dinner at the New Bremen American Legion Hall while others headed back to distant firehouses. They plan to return today to honor Garman in similar fashion.
Calling hours for 40-year-old Garman, affectionately known by the nickname “Jag,” were held Sunday and again this morning. The diehard Cleveland Browns and Dale Earnhardt fan relished being a volunteer firefighter. As fire-safety education officer, he especially loved working with children and making sure they knew what to do in the event of a fire. Those who knew and loved him claim it was the high point of his 10-year association with the department.
A mother remembers
A large color photograph in his casket shows Garman kneeling on the concrete driveway outside the firehouse and helping a youngster get the feel of the fire hose. His mother, Erline, smiled as she gazed at the picture.
“I don’t know who is having the most fun — the child or John,” she said quietly. “And when the time came to spray water, John ended up as wet as the kids.”
Garman, who died when the force of the explosion knocked him from New Bremen’s aerial bucket truck, also will be buried at German Protestant Cemetery. His resting place is a stone’s throw from that of Jutte. Family members felt it was appropriate the men who worked together in life should not be separated in death.


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