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posted: 11/12/2010 2:31 PM

Former Wauconda fire chief dies

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Lyle Matthews is being remembered for leading the Wauconda Fire Protection District into the future during his 18-year career as chief, fire officials said Friday.

Matthews died Thursday at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. He was 80.

"He was a good man, who truly worked as hard as he possibly could for the Wauconda Fire Protection District," said current Chief David Dato. "He was one of the most honest men I knew. When he told you something, you knew it was true."

Matthews, whose family was a pioneer of the area and owners of farmland since 1884, was born and raised on his family's Darrell Road farm and attended schools in Wauconda.

He was the fourth generation to work on the Darrell Road farm, but because of his interest in fire fighting, he joined the volunteer fire department in 1954 after marrying his wife Louise in 1951.

He worked his way up to become a captain and was promoted to volunteer fire chief in 1974, Dato said.

"The guys used to razz him about being the farmer chief, but he loved it," Dato said. "He was really a good chief,"

As chief, he used a referendum to raise money to fund training to turn emergency medical technicians into paramedics to move the district to a 24/7 operation.

Following passage of the referendum, he became the district's first full-time fire chief, and pushed it to build and equip two fire stations for an around-the-clock operation.

Matthews retired in 1992, and Dato replaced him.

During his career, Matthews served as president of the Lake County Fire Chiefs Association, was a member of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, and helped form and served as chairman of the Lake County Haz-Mat Committee. He also was a member of the International Fire Chief's Association, an area representative for an enhanced 911 system, and chairman of the Illinois Fire Chief's Fair Committee for seven years.

After his retirement, he was appointed as trustee of the fire district, where he served until his death.

Matthews was also a member of the Farm Bureau, the Dairy Herd Improvement Association, the Holstein Association of America, the Wauconda Federated Church, the Wauconda Chamber of Commerce and he participated on the Wauconda Township Cemetery Board.

Visitation is Sunday, Nov. 14, 3 to 8 p.m. at Matthews Middle School, 3500 Darrell Road, Island Lake. The funeral service is 11 a.m. at the Federated Church of Wauconda, 200 S. Barrington Road, Wauconda. Interment will follow at the Wauconda Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials should be sent to the Wauconda Fire Department, 109 W. Liberty St.