Two Hagerstown firefighters set to hang up their boots

December 31, 2001

Two Hagerstown firefighters set to hang up their boots


With a combined experience of 71 years in public safety, two Hagerstown firefighters are closing in on battling their last blaze.

Mitch Gearhart, 62, of Hagerstown is hanging up his boots early this morning, while Larry Williams, 56, of Clear Spring, is retiring from the department on Jan. 31.

"I'm really going to miss both of them," Battalion Chief Richard Hopkins said. "They're both very dedicated to their profession. They're just great people to work with."

Williams said that after 35 years as a firefighter, it will take time adjusting to retirement.

"I think it's going to take a while," Williams said. "I'll be able to adjust, but I'm definitely going to miss it."


Both men easily recalled their first day on the job: Feb. 16, 1966, for Gearhart and Oct. 25, 1967, for Williams.

Gearhart, who became a firefighter at 21, got into the business after being sidelined with a foot injury while working for the Western Maryland Railroad. He thought being a part of the firefighters' union would give him the job security to raise his young family.

"Shortly afterward, I just absolutely fell in love with the job," said Gearhart, a graduate of South Hagerstown High School. "And I've dedicated myself to it for the last 36 years."

Gearhart said he plans to spend more time golfing and scuba diving with his 15-year-old grandson now that he'll have the time.

"I will adjust quite easily," Gearhart said. "I'm involved a couple of other things, and they will occupy my time."

Gearhart is married to Beverly. They have four children.

Williams became a firefighter after following in his father's footsteps. His father, John Williams, was fire chief of the Funkstown department for 31 years.

"I sort of grew up around the fire service," Williams said.

Williams and his wife, Linda, have two sons.

He plans to spend his newly acquired free time hunting, fishing and working on the family farm.

Both Gearhart and Williams say as they leave their jobs, they'll be taking with them fond memories of their colleagues.

"We're a close-knit bunch," Williams said. "We're like brothers. That's what I'll miss the most."

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