By Brandi Makuski
It was an emotional night for Park Ridge firefighters on Feb. 10, when they said goodbye to a longtime figurehead in their department.
While he’d already informed his coworkers privately, Capt. Ron Slicer publicly announced his retirement during the PRFD annual awards dinner, held at Sky Club earlier this month.
Slicer started with Park Ridge Fire in 1981. Since then, he said, he’s seen a lot of changes in the industry, also noting that throughout the years the department has always relied on goodwill and support from the village, and from each of its members.
“The number of members we have has gone up and down, but whatever our numbers were, we’ve always been a family,” Slicer told the crowd. “Some of the equipment we got back then, we’re still using; including what was, at the time, our brand new fire truck.”
That truck is still in use by the department, and is referred to as “Ron’s squad” because Slicer—considered by many in the department as the go-to man for vehicle maintenance—performed many custom upgrades himself, an effort by the village to avoid the cost of a brand new vehicle.
“A lot of the new trucks wouldn’t fit inside the garage, so we did what we had to in order to make things work,” he said, adding with a laugh, “even though I’m leaving…that’s still my truck. I guess in a sense, me and the truck are the same.”
Slicer said the decision to retire was tough, but, citing his age and recent injury, the only decision that made sense.
“It’s time for me to leave,” he said, his voice cracking. “It’s hard to do that, but it’s also common sense, too. I’m 68 years old.”
He also thanked his wife, Mary, for dealing with almost four decades of waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of his fire pager, alerting him to a call somewhere in the county.
“We have to give [spouses and significant others] credit; what they do for the fire department is so extremely important,” he said.
Slicer was presented with a ceremonial ax to commemorate his time in the fire service, along with handshakes and hugs from others in the department, many in tears, during a standing ovation following his farewell speech.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye when someone leaves the department, but Ron leaving is a little bit harder,” said Chief Brian Lepper. “He’s been such an integral part of what we do for so long, I think it’ll be a different place without him around.”
Continuing the internal improvements made by both himself and Lepper, Slicer said, was his “greatest wish”.
Slicer also simultaneously served for 20 years in the Dewey Fire Department, having retired from there earlier this year.
“It’s difficult to contemplate what I will do when fire calls come about, but all good things come to an end,” he said.