Sugar Grove bids farewell to Chief Kunkel
Photo: Sugar Grove Fire Protection District Chief Marty Kunkel (right) poses with brother David, the assistant chief of the Aurora Twp. Fire Department. Photo by Natalie Juns
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Fire Department on April 30 held an open house retirement party for Chief Marty Kunkel. Members from all ranks of the Fire Department, as well as Sugar Grove Village Board trustees and community members, congratulated Chief Kunkel on his achievements and wished him a happy retirement.
Kunkel had worked at the Aurora Fire Station for 27 years when he was transferred to the Sugar Grove Fire Department in February of 2005. He transferred from the Aurora Fire Station as an assistant chief and began his career at the Sugar Grove Fire Department as the chief.
During his time with the Sugar Grove Fire Department, Kunkel witnessed many changes and was instrumental in developing a full-time staff.
“(The fire department) was mostly all volunteer when I started, and was still developing,” Kunkel said. “I was given the directive to hire full-time people, and the station was under construction, too.”
In 2006, Kunkel hired 12 full-time people in what was a very developmental time for the station. Today, Sugar Grove Fire Department features 17 full-time employees and 28 paid-on-call members.
After 38 total years of working at different fire stations, Chief Kunkel said that now is the best time for his retirement.
“I’ll be 62, and it’s time for me to retire,” he said. “I don’t have any big plans for my retirement.”
Kunkel said he has some hobbies he enjoys, including woodworking, golfing and muscle cars. He has a ‘64 Chevelle.
Bill Perkins will take over Kunkel’s responsibilities as chief. Perkins previously served as deputy chief since November of 2012. Prior to that, he was the assistant chief at the Oswego Fire Department for 17 years. He’s spent the past 18 months preparing to take on the chief position.
“I’ve learned a lot from Chief (Kunkel),” Perkins said. “It’s a constant learning experience. It’s a sad day for Sugar Grove. (Chief Kunkel is) a huge value to the community, and he will be greatly missed.”
Mike Warner, battalion chief of the Sugar Grove Fire Department, spoke about Chief Kunkel’s instrumental role at the Fire Department.
“He built this station from the ground up,” Warner said. “Chief brought policies and a full-time mentality to the station.”
Wayne Parson, Fire Marshall for the Sugar Grove Fire Department, started his career at a similar time as Kunkel.
“I started in ’73, and Chief started in ’76 at the Aurora Fire Station,” Parson said. “We worked on several projects and knew each other before he came to the Sugar Grove Fire Department. We have also compared stories since we started around the same time.”
Chief Kunkel’s brother, David Kunkel, was in attendance to wish his brother a good retirement.
“At one point, my dad, my brother and I were all serving on a fire department,” David said.
“Once it’s in your family, it’s in your family. I’m happy for (Marty). He’s been liked everywhere he’s been.”