Former Fire Chief, wife embody volunteerism that built community

By on July 19, 2014

When Delmar Krieghbaum came to Sugar Grove in 1944, the population in the entire township was only 200. There were only four streets in town: Main, Maple, First and Grove.

There was no fire department, so Krieghbaum and others came together in 1946 to create one. Initially one of the firefighters, Krieghbaum later served as chief of the all-volunteer department for 34 years. He retired in 1996 after 50 years with the department. His wife Ruth was the department’s phone and radio dispatcher, with one of the four emergency fire phones located in their home.

When the township’s water system was put in place in 1948, Delmar joined the local farmers and others to dig the ditches and wells and lay the pipes. Later, he would help read the water meters and send out the bills.

When the two began raising a family, Delmar umpired for Little League baseball and managed the teenaged boys team, and was one of many residents who helped to build the baseball diamonds.

Delmar made his living as a truck driver, hauling cattle and hogs to the Chicago stockyard, as well as delivering milk to Kaneville and Elburn. But he still found time to serve on the Village Board for a couple of terms.

Ruth was one of the charter members of the Young Adult Club, the group responsible for planning the first Sugar Grove Corn Boil, as well as for making sure there were street lights in town.

During the 1970s, as more and more of the men were working at jobs outside of Sugar Grove, making them unavailable to answer fire calls during the day, Ruth and 12 other Sugar Grove women became the first women fire department in the state of Illinois, and one of only a few in the country.

Ruth and Delmar had five children, 13 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. The two were married for 51 years when Ruth passed away in 2006.

“She was a good gal; she was my mainstay,” Delmar said.

All of their children live within 10 miles of Krieghbaum, who turned 90 this year.

Delmar and Ruth embodied the volunteerism and community involvement that defined daily life in the early days of Sugar Grove. The couple was honored by the village in 2001 for their contributions to the community, sharing the Sugar Grove Citizen of the Year Award.