Former Geneva fire chief, hardware store owner William Rosenfelder dies, at age 86

William "Bill" Rosenfelder Jr. loved two family traditions: running hardware stores and fighting fires.

Rosenfelder, a former chief of the Geneva Fire Department, died last Wednesday at age 86.

He was a lifelong resident of Geneva, except for a stint in the Army, where he was trained as a medic. He pursued that passion as a volunteer emergency medical technician for the Geneva Fire Department, where his father had served. Rosenfelder joined the department in 1959, according to the department's website. He retired in 1980.

He also joined the family's hardware business. An uncle started it in 1917; Rosenfelder's father took it over. The store burned down in February 1953. It then reopened in a new space at 124 W. State St. and affiliated itself with the Ace Hardware corporation.

In 1980, Rosenfelder moved the store to 617 W. State St., doubling its size. Rosenfelder and his sister, Marie Koehn, opened another store in St. Charles in 1990.

Even as big-box stores such as Menard's and Home Depot moved into the Tri-Cities in the 1990s, Rosenfelder remained optimistic about his business. "Good competition never hurt anyone," he said in a 1999 Daily Herald article.

He eventually sold the businesses to Ace, but he kept the Geneva building. When Ace decided to close the Geneva store, Rosenfelder leased the space to another hardware store, then to a new, independent Geneva Ace Hardware in 2011.

"We're really excited about an Ace opening in Geneva again," Rosenfelder said at the time. "Everyone in my family has put their whole life into the hardware stores."

Rosenfelder was involved in many charitable causes. He was a supporter of the Geneva History Museum, where he identified old firefighting equipment and information about big fires Geneva had when he was a firefighter.

He served on the boards of the Kane County Fair and the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, and the Aurora University Citizens' Advisory Board. He was a member of the Fox Valley Shrine Club, Geneva Masonic Lodge 139 and the Delnor-Community Hospital Men's Foundation.

His wife, Mary, died in December. He is survived by sons Michael and Scott, and daughter Diane Riffell; seven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and his sister, Marie.

A wake will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Malone Funeral Home, 324 E. State St. A funeral service will be conducted at 10 a.m. Thursday at Geneva Lutheran Church, 301 S. Third St.

Memorial gifts may be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or to the church.

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