Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Skokie Firefighter David Nellessen is leaving this week just short of three decades on the job. He is a fourth-generation firefighter to work for Skokie, once called Niles Centre, when his great grandfather began there.

It was only while on the job that the Skokie Fire Department’s historian, Lt. Ron Smith, discovered Nellessen’s great-grandfather worked for the volunteer fire department for what is now Skokie. Smith learned the information after he and the Skokie Historical Society researched the history of the department.

A fire company formed in Skokie on May 6, 1881 became Niles Centre Volunteer Fire Company 3. The first fire equipment in that company consisted of a used 1865 Rumsey hand-pumper, a hook and ladder truck, a water wagon and a hose reel with 250 feet of two-inch hose. The hand pumper was capable of pumping 60 gallons per minute with 12 men at the levers providing power.

Skokie Fire Department officials say the Nellessens have marked history from the beginning of the Skokie Fire Department through its evolution.

David Nellessen’s grandfather, Edward Nellessen, was a fireman in Skokie in the 1920 and 1930s. His father Donald Nellessen, now 84, served in Skokie from 1960 to 1984. The younger Nellessen said he began his career in Skokie three years after his dad retired.

While growing up, Nellessen said, his father used to bring him to calls in Skokie, and he was always surrounded by the culture of the fire department. His brothers have also served as firefighters in other towns.

Nellessen said his only regret was that he did not get to work with his father, although he initially worked with the same equipment his dad used.

About a week before retirement, Nellessen remembered some memorable moments from his career — among them, a dangerous trench rescue in Niles two years ago and a 1990 Christmas Eve townhouse fire that claimed the lives of an elderly couple.

But what he will remember and miss most, are the firefighters he stood beside. And the ones he served – in one way, literally – almost every day: Nellessen cooked at his Skokie firehouse.

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