Long-time firefighter dies at 75

March 28, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Veteran Hagerstown firefighter C. William Karn, who first saw "action" in the early 1950s and went on to serve in the fire service for more than 30 years, died Monday at the age of 75.

Firefighters both past and present remembered his love of life and his happy disposition as well as his diligence in his calling.

"Bill was from the old school of firefighting, before there was a lot of formal education in the field," said Hagerstown Fire Battalion Chief Kingsley Poole.

Poole said Karn retired in 1984 with the rank of deputy fire chief.

Karn began his firefighting career in 1953 as an inspector/driver with the Hagerstown Fire Department.

"He came on a few months before I did and we then worked together until I retired in 1981," said Henry DeLauney, who also worked his way up the ladder to the rank of deputy fire chief.


DeLauney said he and Karn came up through the ranks together in the department, surviving harrowing fires and changes in firefighting methods.

"We truly worked as a team," DeLauney said.

Another retired deputy fire chief, Charles M. Baker, described Karn as a "grand fellow to work for."

"I went with the department in 1966 and I found Bill to be a down-to-earth guy," Baker said.

In 1974, Karn became acting fire chief, a job he had been doing for two years because of injuries to then Hagerstown Fire Chief John Hall.

A short time later, Hall returned to his post and Karn finished out his career as deputy fire chief.

"Bill was my boss 25 years ago when I became battalion chief," Poole said. "A very unique man, Bill could give a person the devil and then move on - he was very fair that way."

Current Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said he remembers Karn's career and also admired how he remained active after he retired. He likened Karn's passing to losing a member of the family.

"He had such a love of life," Hawbaker said. "I'll never forget that wonderful laugh."

A Hagerstown native, Karn and his wife, Lucy, were married 48 years. They had no children.

He was admitted to Washington County Hospital Sunday, according to former co-workers and friends.

Among his survivors is a younger brother, Ron Karn, chief of Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications.

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