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Deputy chief says goodbye

February 14, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Rick Kipe said his goodbyes to dozens of fellow firefighters, municipal employees and elected officials on Friday - just a little more than a year after he announced he was going to retire.

Kipe was set to step down as Hagerstown's deputy fire chief after a long and distinguished career with the fire service. Then on Dec. 29, 2002, Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker was sidelined by illness and Kipe was named acting fire chief.

"I believe this last year, Rick gave his best year of service, pulling this department together in a difficult time," Hawbaker said of his longtime friend and colleague.

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Hawbaker returned to his post a few weeks ago.

"I actually started as a volunteer at Antietam Fire Company in 1963," said Kipe, 57. "There was a picture of me and others in the newspaper with a caption that said the fire company was recruiting boys to fight fires."

Kipe began his career as a professional firefighter in 1971.

Among those dropping in Friday at the Market House offices were Harry Daveler, 73, who worked at all six Hagerstown fire stations during his 30-year firefighting career and fondly remembers working with Kipe.

"Rick was part of the youth movement in the fire service," Daveler said.

Justin Mayhue, a Hagerstown firefighter since 1983, said Kipe was a battalion chief then.

"Rick is a consummate professional and mentor with traits we'd like to see in all firefighters," Mayhue said.

Henry Delauney, who retired 23 years ago as deputy fire chief, said working with Kipe was a privilege.

"I became a lieutenant in 1974 when Hank (Delauney) became deputy chief," Kipe said. "I'll never forget that because my promotion became official on Aug. 1, the day of the McCrory's fire."

That devastating fire swept through the former five-and-dime store in the first block of West Washington Street, gutting the building.

"I want to thank you for sharing your career with us," said Joe Kroboth, director of Washington County emergency services, who stopped by Friday to wish Kipe well.

Also on hand Friday were Charlie Baker, who retired as deputy fire chief in 1994; and John Hall, 85, a longtime fire chief who retired in the 1970s.

A high point came when Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner showed up and found himself on the receiving end of a unique gift.

Kipe presented the mayor with a framed, original drawing penned in 1961 by Breichner, who then was a draftsman with the Hagerstown Water Department. The drawing detailed all the specifications for matching up hose threads with hydrants in the city's water system.

"I'd kept the original in my files, making many, many copies of it over the years," Kipe said. "I thought he'd like to have it."

As to his future plans, Kipe said he is planning to take it easy for a while.

"I'm not leaving here to get another job, that's for sure," Kipe said.

In the fall, Kipe is planning to take his wife, Donna, back to Hawaii for their 35th wedding anniversary, the third time the trip has been tied to the longevity of their marriage.

"On our 30th anniversary, I promised her we'd stay 30 days and we did," Kipe said. "This time, we're staying 35 days."

A nurse, Kipe's wife still works with patients two days a week. They have two children, Nicole Mann, a veterinarian in Georgia, and Andrew Kipe, the general manager of the Portland (Maine) Symphony Orchestra.

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