Dec. 29--Peering out the front windows of his Spring Township home, Ron Wentzel watched Saturday morning as firetruck after firetruck lined the street in his neighborhood off Van Reed Road.
The man known as "Moose" wasn't expecting it, but from his hospital bed in the living room, he couldn't contain his smile.
With sirens blaring, dozens of trucks representing more than 40 fire companies descended on Octagon Avenue for a parade to honor their ailing comrade.
Wentzel, 51, a former deputy chief with the Reading Fire Department and longtime fixture in the Berks fire community, is on hospice care as he fights brain cancer.
Following his diagnosis with a brain tumor at the age of 49, he was given six months to live, his wife, Diane Wentzel, said.
"In February, it'll be two years," she said. "He always defies the odds with everything."
Though his condition has rendered him confused and forgetful these days, Diane said, seeing Saturday's parade made "Moose's" eyes light up.
"Seeing that smile on his face, that was everything," she said. "That's all we try to do is keep that smile on his face, keep the days uplifting."
Fire crews from Berks, Lancaster, Montgomery and Lebanon counties came out to ride in the parade and pay a visit to Wentzel, whom many called a mentor to other firefighters.
"This is just a portion of the people that he's touched," said Alyssa Ruffner, who organized the parade for her former fire instructor after coming up with the idea on Christmas Eve.
"He took us all under his wing somewhere along the line," added Konnie Furman, a fire police sergeant with Western Berks Fire Department, where Wentzel was a volunteer.
Though he doesn't know Wentzel, South Williamsport fireman Nick Wummer came out to show his support.
"We have to all rally together when something like this happens," said the Muhlenberg graduate, who volunteers locally with the Goodwill Fire Company in Muhlenberg Township when he's not attending college in Williamsport. "It shows a unity between the fire companies."
It's that support that Diane Wentzel said doesn't come as a surprise to those in the fire community.
"It's a brotherhood," she said. "With fire companies, you expect nothing different."
Contact Becca Y. Gregg: 610-371-5032 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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