McHenry Township Fire Chief Huemann retiring this week, one of current deputy chiefs selected as replacement
Tony Huemann's family got very used to hearing emergency dispatch radio traffic from scanners and pagers throughout the house and listening to calls on fires, crashes and rescues over the years, his family members recalled Tuesday ahead of the fire chief's retirement.
"Many friends and visitors that came to our house would question the noise. It became second nature to our family," said Huemann's daughter, Laura.
After his retirement Thursday as chief of the McHenry Township Fire Protection District, Tony Huemann's home might get a little quieter.
After serving as the agency's head since 2010 and spending 32 out of his 38 years in the fire service with the McHenry Township department, Huemann, who turns 61 on Sunday, is calling it a career.
Huemann followed in the footsteps of his father, who also worked in the McHenry Township fire district, and now both of Huemann's sons, AJ and Marcus Huemann, are serving Illinois fire departments, too, AJ Huemann said.
"Ever since I can remember, as a little boy, I always wanted to be in the fire department," Tony Huemann said Tuesday. "Some people grow out of that; I never did. My dad helped train me and do some stuff with me. I couldn't think of doing anything else."
For Huemann, the emergency responses for kids who didn't survive stick with him most vividly. He specifically recalled a crash on Bay Road that involved three teenagers who perished after the vehicle caught on fire.
"The worst calls are the ones involving children. Those are the ones you can remember the day, remember the weather, whether it was sunny out. We've all seen those things," Huemann said.
He also remembered a woman's life being saved by surgeons after firefighters responded to a crash she had gotten into after playing pool.
Part of the woman's pool cue became lodged in the side of her hip, and firefighters had to extricate the woman from the vehicle by cutting its roof off to get her into emergency transportation so the cue could be removed during surgery.
"It's been a wonderful career," Huemann said.
Rudy Horist, 57, who is now a deputy chief with the McHenry Township Fire Protection District, is slated to replace Huemann at the top of the command chain.
"When people have asked me how I feel right now, if it was even possible to sum it up in one word, I would say very humbled," Horist said. "I've been in the fire service 38 years. It's been a goal for me for a number of years to finish my career as a fire chief."
Horist has been with McHenry Township Fire Protection District since 2010.
"I've got a big pair of shoes to fill," Horist said. "Chief Huemann has been a great mentor to me and has done a lot of things to help prepare me to take on this role."
Huemann said his wife Brenda, a teacher in Johnsburg School District 12 for more than 30 years, is also set to retire this year. The couple plans to live several months a year in Florida and spend more time with their three children and three grandchildren, he said.
"I've always been supportive of his career and he's just had that passion for it," Brenda Huemann said of her husband. "When that pager would go off and he'd need to go help someone, I knew in my heart that that's what he was doing. He was always there to help another person or another family, and that's what it was all about, helping others."