TISKILWA – The Tiskilwa Village Board has selected Arthur Walters as the 2013 Citizen of the Year.
Walters is a lifelong resident of Tiskilwa and dedicated 29 years of his life to the local fire and EMT squad. His goal was to achieve 30 years with the department, however, he was forced to retire a year early when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
“I was just one year shy of my goal,” he said.
Walters was born and raised in Tiskilwa. He worked as a truck driver and mechanic and lived in the Joliet area for a short period of time before returning to Tiskilwa.
“I’m kind of a small town guy,” he said referring to his decision to move back. “It’s nice to visit, but it’s better to come home.”
To Walters, Tiskilwa has it all — friends, family and community.
“It’s just a nice place to be,” he said.
Walters’ dreams of becoming a volunteer fireman began when he was a child.
“You know little boys. They either want to be a fireman or an astronaut,” he said. “A fireman seemed more feasible in a small town.”
His father had also been a fireman in the community for 25 years, and a lot of his friends, including current village President Randy Philhower, were joining the department, so he stepped up to the plate with them.
Outside of his home life, Walters devoted his life to fire and EMT. He became a certified firefighter at the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office and was able to teach and train fellow firefighters. He eventually became a director of the fire department. When he joined the rescue squad, he became certified by the Illinois Department of Public Health and worked to also teach and train new EMT volunteers.
“It was just something to help new people and get more people to join because these things have to be sustainable for years, and you have to try to get new people involved and teach them,” he said. “I did it for almost 30 years, but eventually you get older and aren’t able to do it, so you need people in their 20s to pick up and hopefully carry on. You want to keep people coming in.”
Walters touched on the lack of volunteerism these days.
“Most people, unless they get paid, don’t want to go out of their house to do anything,” he said explaining it’s a generational thing.
“When the rescue squad started here in 1973, everybody was interested in helping, but 40 years later, those people are older and retired or have passed away ... and you’re talking three generations since it started,” he said.
Being a recipient of the award is a “pretty cool” thing for Walters.
“There’s other people in town who do things too, but you always appreciate it when people acknowledge that you did something,” he said. “It means a lot.”
Walters considers volunteering to be very rewarding.
“You don’t get paid for it,” he said. “It’s not always about money. It’s about helping the community, helping friends and having a good feeling about yourself in what you’ve done.”
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