IBERIA — Stan Cooperider and Bob Hoffman gave a combined 102 years of service to the Iberia Volunteer Fire Company.
The pair were honored for their milestones March 24 at the fire hall on State Route 309.
“Over the years these two men have seen the good and the bad as they helped the department progress to what it has become today,” said Lt. Ryan Swank, who presided over the brief ceremony.
Cooperider served as assistant chief among his accomplishments over 52 years. Hoffman was chief and also on the fire board and had 50 years of service.
“They spent their time moving up through the ranks from firefighters to lieutenants, to captains and ending up becoming chiefs. They’ve given so much to protecting the citizens of the district and those who pass through,” Swank said. “From the missed meals to the missed birthdays, holidays and anniversaries.”
Growing the department
Swank said they were instrumental in taking a private fire company to a Joint Fire District in 2016. It began in 1979 when they spent numerous hours helping a neighborhood firer department get off the ground.
“From the many hours put in with bingo, training and meetings, we owe them a debt of gratitude that most likely will not be matched.”
Swank noted that a federal grant received in 2009 helped change the course of the department.
“There was some uncertainty about if we were eligible for federal grants. So with some hesitation we took a chance and succeeded. The grant took the department to a level that was never thought of when we were able to switch to high pressure SCBAs (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) and facepieces for every firefighter.”
Cooperider said the department started at the old quonset hut at the old Iberia School to the community hall building to this one.
“We outgrew each building as the trucks got taller and longer. That’s what I’m proud of accomplishing,” he said.
One constant that has remained over five decades is the people.
“The guys haven’t changed. We’re all volunteers,” Cooperider said. “We don’t get paid a dime and they show pride, dedication and sacrifice — and that has not changed over the years.”
Cooperider recalls being in bed and getting a call at 3 a.m. “quite a few” times before retiring in 2019.
“You go out on the call and get home at 6 a.m., in time to get a shower and go to work for 8 hours,” he recalled.
Cooperider worked at Whirlpool Corporation in Marion for 42 years.
He enjoys gardening at his Iberia home.
“We grow tomatoes and corn; we are known for our sweet corn,” he said.
He and his wife Peg have two daughters and his son-in-law Kim Gray is a member of the department. Peg’s father, Charlie Cramer, started the Iberia fire department.
Hoffman has witnessed the progress.
“When I started we had an old Seagrave pumper, an old gas truck for a tanker and a 1953 pickup for a brush truck. That’s all we had. We had no radios, and then moved up to CB radios,” he said.
The old radios had so much interference and didn’t work real well, Hoffman recalled.
He still remembers the first new pumper that Iberia acquired.
“It was a 1978 FMC model that pumped 1,000 gallons a minute, which is small today.”
Hoffman said he learned a lot from Harry Burdick, his first instructor, from Marion Township.
Now that he’s retired, Hoffman plans to continue his hobby at his home near St. James.
“I have a woodshop and right now I’m making three small tables.”
He and wife Norma have a son, a daughter and two grandsons.
“Gentlemen, congratulations on 50 years and enjoy your much deserved retirements. As you hang up your helmets one last time and place your 3/4 hip boots on the rack, thank you,” Swank said.