Fire Chief Bill Wall, of the Overton Volunteer Fire Department, recently retired after six decades of answering fire calls and protecting homes, buildings and property in his hometown. His friends showed their appreciation in a big reception at the Overton Community Center.
Civilian autos lined up beside and bumper to bumper with fire trucks, emergency vehicles and police cars to fill the center's parking lot and stretching along the roadside.
Overton city and Rusk County officials lavished gratitude and awards upon Chief Wall. Overton Mayor C.R. Evans, who formally proclaimed March 15 as Bill Wall Day, read again and aloud his declaration. Rusk County Judge Joel Hale gave the chief a plaque to show his thanks for Wall's 60 years.
The chief's own department — virtually all of whom Wall trained in firemanship — had a lacquered, full-size fire axe mounted on a plaque with the years 1954 to 2014 engraved to remember their chief's service.
Wall's sons, Greg and Robert, fire chief and assistant fire chief, respectively, honored their father and praised their mother, Barbara, for her 56 years of dedication to her family. Barbara received a special gift from her boys.
Doug Osburn, Wall's nephew and also a firefighter, asked the crowd, "What makes a man answer a pager in the middle of the night to put out a fire in a neighbor's house? To stay until the fire is contained? To return to the fire station and clean the equipment? To cut short an evening with his wife and family? To stop in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas party?"
Osburn's own answer was no surprise.
"Love!" the nephew said. "Bill has a love for his family, and love for his hometown, his neighbors, his family and his department."
Friends spoke of experiences with Chief Wall and gently ribbed the man who became chief in 1974.
Wall thanked his appreciators, sometimes with anecdotes, other times with emotion in his words. On top of the tables set up inside were miniature fire trucks, Dalmatians and fire hydrants. A larger table displayed photographs from the family album.
"Whenever you had a fire, Bill was the man to call," praised Don Eaves, of the Overton Housing Authority who was among Chief Wall's well-wishers.