SARTELL, Minn. – The 1915 Model T fire truck his grandpa drove still sits in the fire department garage, as Claude Dingmann closes the book on his own Sartell Fire Department story.
“Half my life was spent in this building,” Dingmann says.
Dingmann’s family has marked decades of service to Sartell, with no sign of stopping. His father was also a volunteer firefighter and Dingmann’s son Lucas has joined the fire department, too.
The fire engine Dingmann’s grandpa drove links them all.
“He'd tell me stories about the kids beating them to the fire with their bicycles, because it didn't move very fast,” Dingmann laughs.
On Saturday Dingmann was the guest of honor at his retirement party after 36 years as a Sartell firefighter. He was 24 when he joined.
The Sartell Fire Department responded to nearly 3,500 calls during Dingmann’s tenure. He responded to all but 19 of them.
“It'll never happen again, nobody was that dedicated,” says Robert Heins, a retired Sartell firefighter.
Firefighters are used to seeing Dingmann’s pickup in front of the fire hall both before and after his full-time job as supervisor of buildings and grounds for Sartell St. Stephen Schools.
Dingmann’s wife Thressa knows first-hand her husband’s dedication. “When we would go to our kids’ sporting events everyone would wonder why we both drove, but I got tired of being left,” she laughs.
Dingmann shrugs off any thought of giving less.
“I was brought up that way, if you're gonna do something do it right.”
The Dingmanns are now shopping for a cabin where they hope to spend more time with their grandchildren.
All three of them played Sunday with the lights on a fire department rescue boat.
“A couple of them, I think are going to follow in footsteps,” smiles their grandpa.