Restored Park Ridge Fire Truck Honors Firefighters; “It’s a big deal that it’s in the Memorial Day Parade” – Chicago Tribune

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Ralph Bishop will not be on hand to serve as grand marshal in Park Ridge’s 2022 Memorial Day Parade.

But his spirit, in the form of the 1934 “Lil’ Pirsch” fire truck, will loudly announce his presence with Bishop’s daughter behind the wheel.

A longtime Park Ridge firefighter, Bishop died at age 93 on Dec. 31, 2020. According to family and friends, he was rightly proud of “Lil’ Pirsch,” the nickname of the fire truck he drove during calls at the time. , then later guided in local parades.

“This is a special situation where the Grand Marshal is posthumous,” said Brian Lazzaro, vice president of the Park Ridge Historical Society. “But Ralph was a special person. It is special accommodation for Ralph and the people who knew him.”

Making its official return to Park Ridge, the vintage truck spent decades with the Memphis, Tennessee, fire department, according to Lazzaro. The Park Ridge Historical Society bought the trusty pumper and reunited the vehicle in July 2020 with a delighted Bishop six months before he passed away. The Memorial Day Parade, relaunched after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, was the perfect public occasion to show off the truck.

“Little Pirsch”, which even in its 1934 debut contained parts from a 1921 Park Ridge fire truck, is not roadworthy at this time as mechanics are restoring engine parts, Lazzaro said. The carburetor is in pieces while supply chain issues delay the delivery of spare parts. But his siren has been repaired. So the historical society arranged for the fire truck to be towed on a flatbed with Bishop’s daughter, Diane Hussey, in the driver’s seat, her father’s old helmets for the ride, and Second Year’s medals. Brother Emmett Bishop’s World War on display by scouts marching just behind. the vehicle.

“It’s a big deal that our truck is back in the Park Ridge parade after decades,” Lazzaro said. “For most people in the city, this will be the first time they see the truck in person. It’s great to be able to say “in person” again. The historical society’s goal was to bring this truck home for all children and families to see.

Ever since “Lil’ Pirsch” was detached to Memphis in the 1980s, Bishop’s goal was to bring the truck back.

“My dad’s passion became Brian’s passion,” Diane Hussey said. “My dad got to see the truck in July and he passed away on New Years Eve. He was the happiest he had looked in years. He looked like a small child.

Lazzaro added, “(Ralph) … put his walker aside and got straight into the truck.”

Hussey is eager to take the driver’s seat as a Lin-Mar flatbed truck tows “Lil Pirsch” around Park Ridge.

“It brings out the kid in me,” said Hussey, who is committed to driving the truck under its own power when it’s fully restored. The Historical Society continues a fundraising campaign to complete the restoration of ParkRidgeHIstoryCenter.org. and ParkRidgeFireTruck.com.

The mermaid won’t need any more work. “The guy who restored it said it should be good for another 90 years,” Lazzaro said.

Bishop loved old fire trucks, Hussey said.

“He owned three trucks, and they were hand-built,” she said. “There was nothing he couldn’t do. He was a skilled machinist. He had a 1923 Model T truck nicknamed Little Squirt, and hardly anyone could drive it. It had no accelerator pedal. The accelerator was on the steering wheel.

The stories of Bishop and “Lil’ Pirsch” are almost parallel.

Bishop was hired as Park Ridge’s sixth paid firefighter on July 1, 1950, driving Lil’ Pirsch on his first day on the job. Her brother Emmett and her father Ralph E. Bishop – who served as fire chief for four years – as well as two uncles in the early 1900s all served the department as volunteers.

Hussey said his father almost quit firefighting in his first year on the job after witnessing the aftermath of a train-car collision with a mother and her two young daughters as victims. Instead, he became a fire prevention advocate and remained for 28 years, retiring in 1978.

Emmett Bishop served with the 33rd Division, 108th Combat Engineer Battalion from 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945. His unit was assigned to the South Pacific Region – New Guinea, Western Pacific and Luzon in the Philippines.

He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in combat against the Japanese in northern Luzon from February to May 1945. He was also awarded a Victory Medal, an Asia-Pacific Theater Ribbon, a Liberation Ribbon from the Philippines, four overseas bars, one service strip, one good conduct medal. and a Meritorious Unit Award.

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