Former Crystal Lake fire chief remembered as pioneer

CRYSTAL LAKE – Cheryl Grouzard's father was never fond of chairs.

Grouzard, daughter of Harold Krecker, Crystal Lake's first ever full-time firefighter, remembered her father Monday during a wake that brought family, friends and firefighters from all over McHenry County together at Davenport Funeral Home.

Krecker, who died Saturday at 88 years old, was instrumental in transitioning the Crystal Lake Fire Department from a volunteer station to a 24-hour operation staffed by full-time and paid on-call personnel. He became the department's first full-time member and, in 1965, he was appointed chief. He served for 20 years.

Grouzard said her father had a relentless work ethic that also saw him have a lengthy career at a local auto shop.

"I don't think I saw him sit down until he was in his 70s," Grouzard joked. "The fire department was his life. He worked very hard to make it a full-time department."

During his time as a firefighter, Krecker helped the department merge with the Crystal Lake Emergency Ambulance Service and create the Crystal Lake Rural Fire Protection District to serve unincorporated areas of the city.

Krecker also purchased the department's – and county's – first snorkel, a hydraulic platform designed for aerial work. In all, he dedicated 34 years of service to the department before retiring in 1985.
"He touched so many lives," Grouzard said. "A lot of [the firefighters] were the sons he never had."

While he was a beloved and integral figure at the fire department, he also was a community-wide staple. Krecker interacted with plenty of residents as he was hired at Dwight Ormsby's downtown auto shop at the young age of 15.

Even with his responsibilities at the fire department, Krecker went on to work as a mechanic, service manager and salesman at Ormsby's for nearly 60 years even with a break from the shop during his time as chief, retiring at 70 years old.

Jeri Crandall, Krecker's longtime companion, said Krecker was so attached to Crystal Lake he wanted to come back to live in the community three years ago when he got sick.

"Even when he was home sick under hospice the fire department was there," Crandall said of the bond. "Through all of this the fire department has been so much help; just awesome."

Funeral services will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church on 178 McHenry Ave. in Crystal Lake. Interment will follow at Union Cemetery.

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