Lake Ann Firefighter hangs up boots after 58 years

By Lisa Perkins

Traverse City Record-Eagle

LAKE ANN, Mich. (AP) -- The Almira Township Fire and EMS Department feels like family to James Morse Sr. -- and with good reason.

Morse, 83, has decided to hang up his boots after 58 years of service to the volunteer department where he has worked to protect his community alongside friends, neighbors and family members.

"Four generations of the Morse family have served as firefighters," said Morse, whose father William was a founding member of the township department. "I must say my wife has had a lot of sleepless nights after the siren goes off. She has had to wonder if her family would all make it home."

James and his wife Pat have been married for 57 years, have five children and 11 grandchildren. Their four sons, Jim, Jeff, John and current Almira fire chief Jay, have all been members of the department.

Grandsons Jerry and Andrew Morse are trained firefighters and two daughters-in-law have worked as EMTs.

"It makes me very proud to see my sons and grandsons continue with the department," said Morse, who served as chief from 1969-1984.

Jay Morse says he is proud to be following in his father's footsteps.

"I grew up as a 'fire house brat' and we always had a work ethic to community service instilled in us," he said.

The elder Morse has been dedicated to his community since returning to his hometown after serving in the Army's 2nd Armored Division during the Korean War.

He is a charter member of the Lake Ann Lions Club and retired from the State of Michigan after 27 years in special education at the Arnell Engstrom School.

As chief of the fire department, Morse oversaw the introduction of the first Plectron paging system in Benzie County and the purchase of Scott air packs. He secured funding for the departments first new engine and tanker and led a group of volunteers in building an addition to the fire hall.

Morse says, while he is proud of his achievements as chief, there have been moments on the job that he will never forget.

"I've had my life on the line a couple of times but losing a child because of an accident, when there was nothing we could have done, that is the worst," he said.

Morse says while he is looking forward to retirement and winters in Florida, he knows that the sound of a siren will always turn his head.

"When an ambulance goes by, my ears perk up. I want to know what is going on."

An open house was held June 10 to pay tribute to Morse's career from at the Almira Township Hall in Lake Ann. The public is invited to attend or sign his Facebook page at James K. Morse Sr. Retires.

Published: Thu, Jun 28, 2012