By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Community was important to J.D. Reeder of Imperial.
He tallied more than 30 years of service with Imperial EMS, just over 29 years on the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD) and another 30-plus years as a severe weather spotter, most of those as assistant director/manager.
He was enjoying a new realm of service, as well, with his November 2012 election to the Imperial city council.
Reeder, 76, died early Thursday morning, March 27, in a Kearney hospital after suffering a collapsed lung a couple days earlier. His wife Shirley and other family members were at his side.
This week, Shirley said she has a lot of good memories from their 40 years of marriage, many of them from fire department and EMS events.
As those activities lessened in recent years, the Reeders were able to travel more, with his part-time work for Imperial Country Ford, picking up or delivering cars across the country. That followed 30 years of employment at Chase County Community Hospital, most of them as head of maintenance.
But it was the fire department, EMS and other community service that were a deep part of him, his family indicated.
“He enjoyed the fire department and EMS so much and loved being on the city council,” she said Tuesday.
“I wish he could have gone another year or two.”
He was elected after two unsuccessful council campaigns in 2008 and 2010.
“He was determined; he wanted to see some things done,” Shirley said.
One of those was getting a new fire hall constructed, an issue the council is still discussing.
Even with his recent health battles, he had missed just one council meeting since being elected, she noted.
His many years of service with the fire department and EMS were evident at his funeral on Saturday as both the Imperial EMS and IVFD had a strong presence there.
Members were seated at the front of the church and lined the sidewalk as his ashes were escorted out after the service at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church to the waiting Imperial city fire pumper.
Shirley rode in the fire truck to the cemetery, and just after it entered the grounds with an Imperial ambulance at the head of the procession, Fire Chief Nick Schultz stopped the truck. Out climbed grandson Spencer Rowley, an IVFD member and Chase County deputy, and Reeder’s good friend Buck Bassett of Ogallala, a former fire chief there.
The pair collected Reeder’s boxed ashes and situated themselves on the tail-board, and as he had wished, Reeder had one last ride on the fire truck to the gravesite.
The Ogallala Honor Guard, a ceremonial unit dedicated to honoring those who serve in the fire service, had a part in the funeral service, and conducted the ceremonial bell service at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
The bell service, a 200-year-old tradition, included a special signal of four rings, five times each, representing the end of Reeder’s duties. Former IVFD Fire Chief Brian Carman read the bell service history.
Also, a special “last call” page from the dispatcher then went out on the IVFD and EMS pagers, saying “The members of the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department wish to thank former Fire Chief J.D. Reeder for his years of service to the citizens of the city of Imperial and the Imperial Rural Fire Protection District.
“Although you are gone you will not be forgotten.”
Shirley said it was a funeral service her husband would have loved.
Joining the family and many friends for the funeral were 35 others representing the Nebraska State Volunteer Firefighters Association (NSVFA).
That’s to be expected, though, considering Reeder’s years of involvement on the state level with the volunteer firefighters association.
He was a two-time NSVFA state president in 1994 and 2000. Added to that was a year as president of the Nebraska Fire Chiefs Association and many years of additional offices held and committee work. He rarely missed the state fire school each May, where in 1987 he was awarded the coveted Ak-Sar-Ben Outstanding Firemanship Award of Merit.
“We just traveled, traveled, traveled,” Shirley smiled.
“We would drive to Sioux City just for a steak dinner” as part of a fire department or association event, she said.
Then, there were the many miles he drove Imperial ambulances, for which his lead foot was well-known, family members said.
He was among the charter members in 1981 when the Imperial EMS officially organized.
Though he retired from the EMS after 30 years, he still drove the ambulance occasionally afterwards, said EMS President Deb Hayes.
“You got out of the way when one of those pagers went off,” Shirley said.
She said his pickup was always out in front of their house, keys in it, ready to go if a fire or ambulance call came.
“That was the pride of his life,” said son Lynn Reeder.