At 93, Longtime Pennsylvania Firefighter Sticks to Life of Service and Adventure

Louie Hannah's love affair has lasted 87 years.

Hardly a day goes by that he doesn't drop by A.F. Dobler Hose Co. in Girard, a place that first captured his imagination at age 6.

Now 93, Hannah is believed to be the oldest active volunteer firefighter in Erie County and possibly in all of Pennsylvania.

His love of firefighting has fueled an active life, and the same person who beat everybody to the fire station to answer a call when he was a teen remains on the fast track.

Ten years ago, he got his ear pierced.

In 2001, he rocketed around the Daytona race track in a car traveling at least 150 mph.

Today, he still wears a portable scanner on his belt and answers more than 150 calls per year to direct traffic as a fire policeman.

He'd respond to more calls, but he's not allowed to drive at night, one of the few concessions he's made to age.

He also helps teach fire prevention classes in Girard schools and spends countless hours at the firehall."I never felt it was a sacrifice," he said about his lengthy volunteer service. "I can think of a lot of things I could have done if I wasn't in the fire department, but I never felt it was a waste. I felt I was doing the whole town a favor," he said.

"I don't want people waiting on me. In all my life, I've tried to help people rather than having them help me. What would I do if I gave it up? I still feel obligated to represent the fire department when I can," he said.

Until he was close to 80, Hannah answered fire and ambulance calls. His accomplishments include delivering 14 babies. Most of the births were in the ambulance, but a few were in homes.

He admits to being a bit uncomfortable. "I always felt embarrassed for the mother. I felt that I was intruding on their life, being that personal," said Hannah, who is widowed and has no children. "I met a girl here a while back and her friend said, 'Do you remember her? You delivered her 18 years ago.'"

Born in Fairview, Hannah moved at age 3 to his grandparents' house on Olin Avenue in Girard, where he still lives. Inspired by an uncle who drove for the chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department, he couldn't wait to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and three uncles who belonged to Dobler Hose.

As a youngster, he and a friend pulled hose and ladder carts to fires and by age 16, he was allowed to drive the fire truck.

"I could get here in about three minutes. They always accused me of sleeping with my clothes on because I was the first one there," he recalled.

He officially joined Dobler Hose in 1936 and except for his time in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, he's been a member ever since. He was elected chief in 1953 and headed the department until 1986.

Fred Hyde, deputy chief of Dobler Hose, beat him for chief that year. But four years as chief was enough for Hyde, who admires Hannah for his long service.

"He doesn't give up and that's the good thing," he said. "He's always looking for an adventure. He's amazing. Every day he gets up and goes and does what he has to do," said Hyde.

One of his daily activities is accompanying his friend and fellow firefighter, Jeff Gadley, to Gadley's construction sites. For the last four years, Hannah's been his unpaid, right-hand man.

Every day at noon, Gadley, 35, drives his truck to Olin Avenue to pick up Hannah. After a quick lunch, the two start their rounds, picking up materials and checking on the progress of Gadley's many ongoing projects.

All the while, they keep up a lively conversation with the easy amiability that characterizes their close friendship. Gadley considers Hannah, who lost his wife, Thelma, in 2000, to be part of his family.

"He'll carry wood, pick up and clean up," Gadley said. Hannah also gripes