Fire Advisory Board inducts five firefighters on Wall of Honor

Modified: October 17, 2017 9:03am

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imageOctober 12, 2017—Cheektowaga NY: Members of the Erie County Fire Advisory Board were joined by Erie County officials in unveiling five new printed plates on the “Wall of Honor” located at the Erie County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) Training & Operations Center at 3359 Broadway in Cheektowaga, NY this evening.

Names added to the Wall of Honor this evening were: Leonard J. Gruszka from the Doyle Hose Co. #1, Earl Loder* of the Pine Hill Hose Co. #5; William (Bill) Schroeder from Sloan Active Hose Co. #1; and George W. Sheehan and Kermit (Bud) G. Stradtman, both of the South Line Volunteer Fire Co. – all in the Town of Cheektowaga.

The Erie County Legislature passed a resolution dated April 1, 2004 establishing funding for the creation of a “Wall of Honor”, honoring those career and volunteer firefighters in Erie County who have sacrificed so much protecting lives and property in Erie County. The Legislature also authorized the Fire Advisory Board to receive and review nominations of career and volunteer firefighters in Erie County for inclusion on the “Wall of Honor”, created to serve as public recognition honoring those members of Erie County’s fire service who have demonstrated; through their dedication, talents and sacrifice; ideals that promote fire service values.

Leonard Gruszka joined the ranks of Doyle Hose Company #1 on March 5, 1962 and dedicated the next 48 years of his life to the brotherhood of firefighters and his community. Len loved serve the community’s youth as chairman of Doyle’s Fire Prevention Committee and was recognized at the state level for his design and implementation of the official NYS Fire Prevention Flag.

Earl Loder joined the Pine Hill Hose Company in 1952 after his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army.  Just three months into his probationary firefighter status Earl responded to the Cleveland Hill School fire where 14 children and 1 teacher lost their lives on March 31, 1954.  Another 20 victims were injured in this tragic fire.  This early experience served to fuse Earl’s dedication to public service, a commitment that has lasted for 64 years. He rose to the rank of fire chief and served from 1965-1968, and as fire District commissioner from 1968-1983. Loder went on to serve as emergency manager for the Town of Cheektowaga starting in 1981 and continues in that capacity today, making him the first-ever town assigned emergency manager in Erie County.

William “Bill” Schroeder joined the Sloan Active Hose Co. #1 on April 26, 1946, and was elected to Second Assistant Chief in 1951, later serving as a trustee and First Assistant Fire Chief.  In 1961 the Village of Sloan experienced one of the largest structure fires in Cheektowaga history when the railroad “Round House” burned.  Employed by the Village Highway Department from 1950 until 1984, Bill drove the fire company’s 1936 American LaFrance pumper back and forth for approximately one week to extinguish the many rekindles.

George Sheehan joined the South Line Volunteer Fire Company in May of 1960 and remained on the active rolls until his passing July of 2015.  During his 55-years of dedicated service, George served as Firefighter, Fire Police, Recording Secretary, Chaplain, and Fire District Treasurer.

Mr. Kermit (Bud) G. Stradtman Jr. started his active duty to the South Line Volunteer Fire Company in 1962.  During Bud’s 54 years of service he moved up the ranks to serve as Assistant Fire Chief of Department for five years, and as Chief of Department for six years.  His service includes 30 years as a Fire District Commissioner. He served as Fire District Secretary until his passing on February 9, 2017.

These five firefighters join the twenty-five other individuals previously added to the Wall of Honor:

William Belinson, Harmon W. Benzee Jr., Vernon Callahan, John Capriotto, James Carr, Roger H. Chaffee, Keith Dillingham, Jarrett Eleam**, Michael Gates, Timothy M. Goff**, Michael P. Killian**, Irvin Lorich, John Maciver, Carl W. Meyers, James J. Mooney, Michael S. Morris, Robert E. Newell, Arthur Popiol, Richard Quattrini, Thomas T. Trzepacz, Michael V. Walters, Alan J. Ward, Harold Waters, Michael P. Wutz*, and William Wutz.

Fire Advisory Board Chairman Paul Wilson, past chief of the Lake Shore Volunteer Fire Company in Hamburg, NY served as the master of ceremonies while board member James Guy shared the meaning and history of the Wall of Honor. Wilson introduced Daniel Neaverth Jr., Commissioner of the county’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services; and James Reger, Deputy Commissioner of the county’s Fire Safety Division, who shared their respective remarks.

Erie County Legislator Ed Rath, chairman of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, read proclamations honoring Gruszka, Loder and Shroeder; while Legislator Ted Morton shared proclamations recognizing Sheehan and Stradtman.

Fr. David Borowiak, Chaplain for Erie County DHSES, shared a blessing before the officials joined family and fire service members in the east lobby to unveil the respective honoree wall plates.

The Erie County Fire Advisory Board is comprised of 25 members who serve to advise the department, legislature and the county executive on matters of importance related to Erie County’s 97 fire departments and the communities they serve.






Photos of the induction ceremony can be viewed, downloaded and used with appropriate photo credit: “Courtesy of Erie County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Services” at:


For more information about the Erie County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Services, visit their web site at:


For more information about the Erie County Division of Fire Safety and the Erie County Fire Advisory Board:


*=Living Honoree. All other honorees were inducted posthumously.

**=Died in the Line of Duty