Note: I wrote this obituary to honor my Grandpa, who was the longest serving fire chief in Marthasville, Mo.
Frank W. Pohl, a farm equipment mechanic whose life’s passion was working with the Marthasville Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as chief for 25 years and helped professionalize its services, died on May 30, 2016. He was 90.
When Frank was elected fire chief in 1957, the department consisted of one fire station funded through a tag system – basically, donations from the public. But not everyone paid; people knew the firefighters would show up anyway. Frank and other department leaders saw the need for a reliable revenue base and professional development for the firefighting force.
Under Frank’s tenure, in 1976, Marthasville’s citizen’s voted to form the Marthasville Fire Protection District and pay for it with taxes. The first budget was about $14,000, which allowed for an expansion of the Marthasville fire station and construction of a new station in Treloar, according to the fire department’s website.
Though Frank performed many administrative duties as chief, he always considered himself a firefighter first and foremost.
“Unless he was out of town, Frank answered every fire call,” said Jeff Backhaus, the current chief of the Marthasville Volunteer Fire Department and the son of Harvey Backhaus, who worked with Frank as a firefighter. “His love and dedication for the fire department was unreal.”
Frank often answered fire calls with Harvey and another volunteer, Frank Rombach. The two Franks worked at Driemeyer’s, a farm equipment shop in town, and Harvey owned the meat shop next door. When there was a fire, a siren would wail on top of Marthasville’s water tower, and Frank, Harvey and Frank would hop into one car and race over to the fire station. They would then jump into a fire truck and speed off to do their duty.
Even when he wasn’t answering calls, Frank was often at the fire station. Using his mechanic skills, he’d work on fire trucks until 1 or 2 in the morning to ensure they ran properly.
“At home at dinner time, Dad would talk about working on the fire truck, doing training or having a meeting,” said Donald Pohl, Frank’s son and only child, who was also a member of the fire department for about five years. “His dedication made me know that you have to give back to others and do things for the community.”
Frank served as fire chief until 1982 – still the longest-serving chief in Marthasville history, said Jeff – and remained active on the board for many years after. In 2005, the department honored him for 60 years of service. Frank also served with the Marthasville Community Ambulance District.
Frank was born on November 5, 1925, in St. Louis, the only child of Frank H. Pohl and the former Goldie Rogers. At age 8, during the Great Depression, Frank and his family moved to Marthasville. In 1946, he met Marion Emma Holtmeier at a dance and they married in August 1949. She died in 2007.
In addition to his son, Frank is survived by his daughter-in-law, Catherine; grandchildren Laura Pohl, Janet Spirek, and James Pohl; great-grandchildren Fiona and Siobhan Spirek; four nieces, a nephew, extended family and loving friends.
A visitation will be held on Monday, June 6, 2016 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Martin Funeral Home in Marthasville. A funeral mass will be held on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 10 a.m., at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Dutzow.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Marthasville Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 101, Marthasville, MO, 63357.
All photos © Laura Elizabeth Pohl. No republishing without permission.