FOREST JUNCTION — As chief of the Forest Junction Volunteer Fire Department, Carl Weber knows firsthand the value of giving his time to the community. It’s a value passed down from his parents, Don and Ellarita.
“As a young child, when we were on the farm, my dad was always building things and doing things for the church at St. Pat’s in Askeaton,” he said. “Then we moved to Forest Junction in 1965. We still belonged to St. Pat’s, but got very involved in the community here with the fire department.”
His father served as a volunteer fireman in Forest Junction. “He got us kids involved in the fire department. We would clean the trucks or paint the walls,” Carl said.
Carl and his older brother, Ken, went on to join the volunteer fire department. Ken served as fire chief for 10 years and Carl succeeded him in 1988. For the past 33 years, Carl has been leading a group of about 20 volunteer firefighters.
“They come from all walks of life,” he said. “They are good people and anyone who goes out of their way to join a volunteer fire department, they are on the right track. They were brought up with values to say you should be involved in the community. Those are the people you find in the fire service.”
Weber’s commitment to service led to him being selected as the 2021 Wisconsin Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year by the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association. He was nominated for the award by the Calumet County Fire Chiefs Association and the award was presented to him at the state conference June 26.
“I told the guys I don’t deserve it anymore than anybody else,” said Weber. “It’s just that I’ve been doing it longer than a lot of them.”
When he began volunteering, he worked with firemen whose sons and grandsons are now his colleagues. “I consider myself very fortunate to have worked with all of those guys,” he said.
Weber is maintenance manager at Professional Plating in Brillion. “My employer, which is the Bob Endries family, is very supportive of being involved and volunteering in the community,” he said.
Weber said his Catholic faith is the foundation on which everything in his life rests.
“From early on, as a kid growing up on the farm, Sunday was church time,” he said. “It was a special day. That’s just the way we were raised. Being involved with the fire department, I think your faith is pretty important as far as things you deal with, some of the situations.
“I had a conversation with a fire chief who lost a firefighter in the line of duty,” he said. “I haven’t had to deal with something that traumatic, but it makes you realize how important your faith is to get you through those things.”
He’s had to turn to his faith on several occasions in his life, like when his brother, Ron, who drowned, and his father, killed in an automobile accident, both died in 1972. “But more so with the death of my mother,” he said.
Ellarita, 95, died last January after contracting COVID-19. “She was at West Haven in Brillion the last two years,” he said. “I got her a cellphone before she went in and I would stop every day and visit her through the window on the phone.”
Before moving to Brillion West Haven, Ellarita had lived with Carl, who is single, for 62 years. “When I bought the (family) house, she came with it,” he said, smiling. Holy Family Parish, where Weber has been a member since 2007, has helped him through the grieving process. So has his close friend, Jean Kloehn, whom he has been dating for around seven years.
“She helps keep my faith strong,” said Weber. “She has a very, very strong faith and is very involved in her parish” at St. Mary in Hilbert.
In 2007, Weber was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had surgery in March 2008 to remove his prostate.
“At that time, I had visits from pastoral leaders at the parish. That was probably the first serious encounter I had where I really had to dig deep,” he said. “That was probably one of the bigger times when I looked to my faith and it got me through that.”
Weber’s gratitude for his family, his friend, Jean Kloehn, and his faith made volunteering at Holy Family Parish an easy decision. He is chairperson of the parish’s building and grounds committee and is an usher at the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass.
Weber said St. Florian is one of his spiritual luminaries because Florian is the patron saint of firefighters. According to tradition, Florian, a Roman soldier in the third century, extinguished a fire threatening a city. His May 4 feast day is also celebrated as International Firefighters’ Day.
Name: Carl Weber
Parish: Holy Family, Brillion
Favorite saint: Florian
Words to live by: “Fear not. I am with thee.”