Former Gurnee Fire Chief Fred Friedl's long tenure as the area's top firefighter was celebrated at a ceremony Wednesday night.
The popular chief was relieved of duty last month when Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik decided not to reappoint him. It is for that reason perhaps that the ceremony did not happen during a Gurnee board meeting.
Instead, Friedl's friends and formers colleagues told him how much they appreciated him during the Warren-Waukegan Fire Protection District board meeting in the training room at Fire Station No. 2 at 6581 Dada Drive in Gurnee.
The Warren-Waukegan Fire Protection District pays the Gurnee Fire Department to provide its residents, who mostly live in unincorporated Lake County, with fire service.
Phillip DeRuntz, president of the three-member board of trustees, said that during his 13 years on the board, Friedl had been a constant he could rely on for help and counsel when times were tough.
"He's proud to be a leader, not for the power of it but like a father wanting to help his family," DeRuntz said.
Battalion Chief Jim Pellitteri, who worked under Friedl for several years at the Gurnee Fire Department, said Friedl treated everyone with kindness, even those weren't kind to him.
"You might have had favorites, but none of us knew who they were because you treated everyone the same," Pellitteri said.
"Your legacy lives in us, and we'll carry it on."
The ceremony was paused briefly so the approximately 60 people who had gathered to honor Friedl could listen to a radio dispatcher read a message announcing Friedl's final tone, a gesture done at most retirement ceremonies for high-ranking firefighters.
Friedl said he was touched by the kind words shared during the ceremony.
"You always hope you make an impact on the community members and on the members of your department," Friedl said as pieces of cake were being distributed to the standing-room-only crowd. "It really means a lot."
Gurnee's acting fire chief, John Kavanagh, also gave a speech thanking Friedl, saying Friedl had allowed firefighters to grow as individuals over the last 20 years and make the department what it is today.