Two of the longest-tenured members of the Urbana Fire Division – Capt. James Freeman and Firefighter/Paramedic Brett Evilsizor – have decided to hang up their uniforms after putting in over 30 years of service to the community.
Freeman, who joined the UFD in June 1985 and was promoted to captain in July 1991, worked his last day at the fire station on Jan. 6, ending three-plus decades with the department.
“I’ve got 31 years in, and I’m retiring. It’s just time to go,” Freeman said the day before his retirement became official.
A family man with four kids and three grandkids, Freeman said he’s not sure what he will do now that his time with the UFD is over. For now, he’s waiting for the day his wife, Kathy, can join him in retirement.
“My wife still has to work for a few more years, so I really haven’t thought about what I will do now,” he said. “I’ve really spent most of my adult life here, so I don’t know anything else.”
Freeman said he will miss his work family and serving his community.
“I’ve enjoyed working here and working with all the people,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed interacting with the people of this community.
“Working with the guys here has been the high point. Seeing them every day is what I will miss the most,” Freeman added.
Chief Mark Keller said replacing Freeman and everything he brought to the UFD will be a tough chore.
“He’s been very instrumental to a lot of different things within the fire division,” Keller said. “He has a lot of knowledge in computer systems, and he has maintained those for us. In 1996, we switched over to a digital reporting system, and he has overseen that the entire time to make sure we are doing things properly when it comes to reporting things to the state.”
Keller said that in addition to the leadership Freeman has provided as a captain since 1991, he has brought another important trait to the UFD that will be missed.
“He’s a very detail-oriented guy,” Keller said. “If any little bit of information is missed on a report, he catches it. That’s going to be something we are going to miss.”
Freeman was honored during a small celebration on Friday at the fire station.
Evilsizor ready for life after civil service
Since Nov. 3, 1986, Evilsizor has gone about his days doing what he loves to do – helping those in his community. Come Jan. 14 when he says goodbye to his band of brothers for one final time at the firehouse, Evilsizor will turn his attention to spoiling the newest member of his family – his 2-month-old grandson.
“I’m just ready for the next chapter in my life,” he said. “My daughter and son-in-law just had a boy, so I’m looking forward to spending time with my grandson, doing some traveling and seeing some sights. I’m also looking forward to sleeping every night in my own bed.”
Evilsizor’s career as a firefighter/paramedic wasn’t a childhood dream or anything like that. Instead, he joined the UFD three decades ago thanks to a little coercion.
“Thirty some years ago a couple of firemen who I worked with when I was a grocery clerk said I should come work with them at the fire department. I listened to them, and I’m thankful that I did,” Evilsizor said. “It’s given me a chance to be of service to the people of my community, and it’s allowed me to work with a lot of great guys through the years.
“I’ve made great friendships throughout the years, and I definitely hope to continue them,” he added. “It’s been a very rewarding experience.”
The UFD will honor Evilsizor’s service with an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 11 at the fire station.
Keller said the department is losing one of its go-to guys on the EMS side as Evilsizor has spent time as an EMS instructor and the point man for the handling of medications.
“Brett is one of those people who has done so many different little things that add up,” Keller said. “The things he’s done have been very beneficial to keeping the operations going here within the fire division.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.