Former Courtland fire chief honored for 40 years of service
Published 11:01 am Friday, May 30, 2014
COURTLAND—He thought he was coming to a spaghetti dinner celebration for the families at the Courtland Volunteer Fire Department.
When Christ Erbe got there, however, he learned that he had been tricked, but it was in a good way. The department had put together a celebration and plaque to salute its former chief for 40 years of service.
“It was just a big surprise, and also an honor,” he said. “I had no idea they were going to do anything like that.”
Erbe said he’s been glad to give all those years of service to the organization.
“Well, there’s just the satisfaction of helping people,” he said. “And I know the fact that if I needed someone, they would be there to help me.
“I just want to help people and try to make a difference in the community.”
Of firefighting, Erbe said it was both aggravating and rewarding at the same time, but he wouldn’t want to do anything else, as firefighting is in his blood.
“My grandfather was a firefighter, so was my father, my older brother, my younger brother, and both of my daughters have been firefighters,” he said. “It runs in the family.”
Having his daughters both involved meant a lot to him, too. His oldest, Crystal Joyner, served for a few years, and his youngest, Sandra Maggete, is a lifetime member.
“It was great to have them both here,” Erbe said. “Even when the girls were little, we used to live right behind the firehouse and they would tag along with me when we had fundraisers. Whenever we were doing something at the firehouse, they were here with me.”
Over the years the firehouse has meant a lot to him.
“It is like a second family,” he said. “I have got a lot of good friends here. People, that if you need something, they’ll drop what they are doing and come help you.”
Erbe acknowledged that he doesn’t run into the buildings anymore. Instead, he serves more in a supporting role.
“I am too old and out of shape for that,” he said. “I still help with the training, and I help with the fundraisers.
“I also drive the trucks. That frees up a firefighter to do the dirty work.”
Of that supporting role, CVFD Chief Brian Futrell said he does a good job helping the people of the department.
“I’m hoping he can give us another 40 years,” Futrell said. “I’m glad that he is still as active as he is and continues to help lead this department.
“He is like a father figure to all of us up here. He has helped us train and to become good citizens.”
Futrell said honoring Erbe was obvious.
“You don’t see many people perform 40 years of active service — service as active as he has been,” he said. “He’s just been a very good asset to all of the members.”
Futrell said that as a people person, Erbe is particularly effective in helping train members.
“He’s always been someone we can talk to,” Futrell said. “He’s a big part of the family feel we have at the fire department. Just the way he carries himself, as a people person, everyone always looks forward to talking to him and seeing him. He treats everyone with respect. He makes it like a big family.”
The family atmosphere is one of the things that kept Erbe coming back.
“The different members we have had keep me coming back,” he said. “It is like a big family down here.”
Currently, his title is president and chief engineer. As president, he’s responsible for the meetings. And as chief engineer, he’s responsible for repairs.
“We try to pretty much repair everything we can ourselves,” Erbe said. “It saves a little money. The big stuff we’ve got to send off. But anything small, we can handle it. We’ve got a diverse group of talents here.”
Erbe himself is good at working on mechanical things and the building, as he’d been the maintenance supervisor for Franklin City Public Schools for 15 years, and had served in the department for 30 years before he retired due to health reasons.
Before serving as the chief engineer, he was the chief.
“The chief is responsible for everything,” he said. “From the time the alarm goes off to the drills — the bottom line is, the chief is responsible for everything.”
Futrell said Erbe was an effective leader.
“His leadership, when he was chief, made you want to stay up here,” he said. “His ability to lead the department and take care of the members, made it feel like it was your second home.”
He’ll serve as long as he’s able, Erbe said.
“Being the oldest member in the department now, everyone looks out for me,” he said. “My wife (Mary Ann Erbe) and two daughters are protective of me. They don’t want anything to happen.
With a laugh about the fire crew, he added, “I think they are more afraid of my wife than they are me.”