By Carolyn Marnon – He spent 23 ½ years serving the community as a member of the Wayne Fire Department. December 1 was an emotional day for Deputy Chief Fred Gilstorff as he said good-bye to his work family and headed into the sunset–his retirement years.
Retirement? Not really. On Monday, December 4, he opens a new chapter in his life as Fire Chief for the Peninsula Fire Department in Peninsula Township, population 5,433 according to the 2010 census. Peninsula is near Traverse City.
Searching for fire chief jobs for the last year or so has been a past-time of Deputy Chief Gilstorff. He was looking for something that would provide more security for his family: a wife and 8-year old son. He also has two grown sons.
Gilstorff is proud of his achievements as Wayne’s Deputy Fire Chief. He had to reorganize the Wayne Fire Department after the department’s separation from Westland. He worked night and day for a month to ensure that radios and communications were in order so the department could respond seamlessly to emergencies. There was no interruption in service to Wayne residents as Gilstorff worked with Chief Straedtner and Office Manager Cathy Lutkenhoff. Regaining the Wayne Fire Department’s identity was important. When the merge occurred some years ago, Wayne had to adapt to Westland’s way of doing things.
Working with the citizens of Wayne, especially Bernadette Brock and Sammy Willingham, to fundraise for a new Jaws of Life was another worthwhile accomplishment. Gilstorff thinks it is important to get the department involved in the community.
As a bored 19-year old cleaning up radioactive waste at a nuclear power plant, Gilstorff didn’t have a clear vision of what he wanted to do with his life. The Monroe fire chief lived down the street from the Gilstorff family and recruited Fred to volunteer at the Monroe Fire Department.
Fred loved the work and decided he wanted to be the best fire fighter he could be. After volunteering for 4-5 years in Monroe, he then worked three months at the Warren Fire Department. From there, he came to Wayne for the next phase of his fire-fighting career.
Peninsula is a beautiful place, Gilstorff says. The fire department there is smaller with full-time, part-time and volunteer fire-fighters.
He took his family up to Peninsula Township after he got the job. His wife’s dream was to move up north and retire. He laughs when he says “she’ll have baggage with me and a kid.” They are super excited to make the move.
Gilstorff will miss Wayne. His co-workers here have been his family for 23 ½ years. He says this is “see you later, not good-bye.” The friendships he has made with his co-workers and community will be what he misses most. “Wayne community has always been good to me and treated the fire department with respect.”
It’s all about people communicating and being there for each other, he says. “It’s a family, everyone is there for each other. It’s awesome.”
“I’ve been through a lot of chiefs and deputy chiefs,” says Cathy Lutkenhoff who has been with the Wayne Fire Department for 28 years. She says she always tried to lighten Gilstorff up because he took his job so seriously.
Gilstorff will continue working on his Bachelor in Public Safety Studies online while making improvements to Peninsula’s ALS (Advanced Life Support). Yes, he does take his job seriously.