Firefighter's from Engine 21 hit the air horns as they pass retired Fire Captain George Stoll's "little green house on the curve".
Photo credit: George Phelps
When someone takes on public service, it is not necessarily for the money or esteem, but for the opportunity to assist and serve others. Some have aspirations of power when they strive to make it to the top, and use whatever means possible to work their way up the chain of command. While others do so to try to make a difference, and to make improvements for both the public they serve, and for the fire fighters who serve under them.
For some, the role of Captain or any other officer rank is just a job and a means to increase their income. Many of these never had nor ever will maintain any level of respect due to the way they got their job, but also due to the way that they lead their personnel. And then for the rare few, the position of Captain becomes a lifetime role. This is out of respect for not only the impact they made to the public during their tenure in the position, but also to the impact made to those whose lives were touch while under their command. In the Cincinnati Fire Department, we have one of those rare few whose life and service touched so many, that even after his retirement over 25 years ago, the level of respect continues with each passing day.
For those of you unfamiliar with Fire Captain George Stoll, he had been Captain of Engine Company 21 for over twenty-five years, and served the citizens of Cincinnati for over 35 years with the Cincinnati Fire Department receiving many commendations for his service as a public servant. He retired in 1977, yet the level of respect and the memory of ?Smiley? continues even today!
He was known as the Mayor of Fairmont partially because of his length of tenure in the neighborhood, but also because he knew every person, home, and features of those homes within that close knit community. George and Betty have and still lived in the same house on Queen City Avenue in Fairmount for over 50 years. Every time George would make a run while commanding Engine 21, he would hit the large apparatus bell as he passed their little green house on the curve so that Betty and his children knew he was OK. Over the years, the bells on fire trucks have been replaced by the air horns, so the horn then replaced the bell to signal that all was safe for George and Engine Company 21. Even 25 years after his retirement, the tradition of hitting the horn (bell) as the 21's pass the Stoll home has continued ever since out of respect for Retired Fire Captain George Stoll and his family.
George and Betty have been married for over 63 years, which in itself is pretty amazing. She has had a long and productive life, which included volunteer work with many community organizations including over 40 years with the American Red Cross. She had been very healthy up until about a year and a half ago when she had gone through two broken hips, several mini strokes, and a few other problems.
On November 19th, 2002 at 9:01 PM, Betty Stoll passed away. The services were held on Friday the 22nd at St. Bonaventure's Church on Queen City Avenue in Fairmount, which is the same community, served by Engine 21, and over 25 years ago, Fire Captain George ?Smiley? Stoll. While standing near George during the visitation service to help give him support through this difficult time in his life, I witnessed a continuous display to the level of respect so many felt toward George and Betty for all the work they had given so freely to the community.
Many of those who greeted George referred to him as ?Cap? because of his past title that he earned so many years ago, yet still maintained that level of respect for him even today. Sitting near George was also a large floral display giving their regards from the members of Engine Company 21. Members of the Engine 21 also indicated that when they pass, their horn would continue to let George know that he is still remembered, and that the 21?s are safely on their way home. This display of continued respect for the Captain of their company so many years ago. This continued gesture on the part of the members of Engine Company 21 of which many have never had the pleasure to work for him, make George still feel as if he is an active member of the fire company that he has always been so very proud to have served for the majority of his career.
I had been honored to work with George prior to his retirement in 1977, and to also know Betty and the rest of the Stoll family over the past few years.