Morris residents will have a chance to show their appreciation for the city's long-serving fire chief on Saturday.
From 1 to 3 p.m., the Morris Fire and Ambulance Protection District will hold an open house to celebrate the retirement of Chief Bob Coleman at Station 2, 2301 Ashton Road.
Tracey Steffes, the current assistant fire chief who will take on Coleman's title July 1, said the event is going to be low-key, with cake and refreshments and a chance to informally meet with Coleman. At 2 p.m., attendees will be able to make brief remarks to Coleman in front of the group.
"If people want to come out and see the firehouse and thank Chief Coleman for his years of service and have some cake (they can)," Steffes said. "It's kind of a busy day around town."
Coleman, who has worked for the department for 52 years, with 35 of those as chief, said he's looking forward to the open house and seeing staff and community members.
"I've had a very good career with the fire protection district and a very good cooperation with the trustees who run the fire department and the people that make up the fire department, the firefighters themselves," he said. "They've made me what I am — without them I couldn't have done it."
Coleman has seen a lot of changes over his career, from joining emergency medical services, to working to requiring that all firefighters to be state-certified. While the highlights are numerous, Coleman said working to increase the level of education firefighters receive has been particularly close to his heart.
He played an important role in establishing the Chief Shabbona Firefighter's Association, and in recent years worked to bring a fire service program to the Grundy Area Vocational Center. Additionally, he has also served on the Joliet Junior College's fire science board for more than 30 years.
"I really have been totally involved (in education), and I totally believe in it," he said. "Get these people educated so they can do a better job for their community — it's probably the number one priority."
He said the work he has done as chief would not have been possible without the people surrounding him, however. He said the support from the community and the department's trustees has made a difference.
"It's been my honor to be a member of the fire department and also be the fire chief for the community," he said. "Not everybody gets that chance. It's a big responsibility and it's a big job."
After retirement, Coleman plans to continue working in a part-time capacity with the city of Morris as fire marshal and emergency medical services coordinator. Beyond the part-time job, he said the future is wide open.
"I'm going to have free time," he said. "I don't have any set plans."
He does know one thing, however — retirement will not take him away from the community.
"I'm going to stay in the Morris area," he said. "It's been my home. I was born here and I'm going to remain here."