Joe Pautler and Sherwood Kloppenberg have 127 years of firefighting experience between them.
That — in part — is why the two were honored at the Union Fire Protection District’s annual award banquet.
Kloppenberg, who has been a firefighter for 57 years, was named the 2012 Firefighter of the Year, while Pautler, 87, was awarded separately for serving 70 years with the department.
Kloppenberg, 78, was nominated and voted Firefighter of the Year by other firefighters.
“Of all the firefighters within the organization, it is heart warming to see them recognize one of its oldest members as firefighter of the year,” said Fire Chief Russ Hamilton. “Equally so to have a member who has served the community for 70 years is truly a reflection of the dedication firefighters possess.”
Hamilton added that Kloppenberg is the secretary for the fire department, not the fire district board. One duty is to keep track of the years of service for each firefighter.
He served as the department’s secretary from 1966-76, and again from 1986 until the present.
Kloppenberg was selected as Firefighter of the Year in 1975.
He served on active duty in the United States Army from Jan. 11, 1957, through Dec. 23, 1958, with 17 months in Germany.
Kloppenberg was a four-term Union alderman and a forty-year-long businessman who owned Kloppenberg’s Barbershop from 1959 to 1999.
Pautler’s career as a local volunteer firefighter began while he was still a student at Union High School in January 1943. At the time, many area men were serving their country in World War II.
“When an alarm would go off, we would ride our bicycles there,” Pautler remembers.
At the time, the Union Fire Protection District had not been established, and wouldn’t be for another 40 years.
In exchange for sponsorships, the firefighters wore patches on their backs indicating which businesses were supporting them.
The fire station and meeting room were located on the Franklin County courthouse square in downtown Union at the northeast corner of Main and Locust streets.
During his firefighting career, Pautler held several offices with the Union Fire Department including treasurer, rescue lieutenant, second assistant chief and training captain.
He also served as the first fire marshal after the Union Fire Protection District was established in 1973. Pautler served as fire marshal for four years, until 1977, noting that although building and fire codes have changed over the years, the responsibilities are essentially the same.
Pautler graduated from Union High School in 1944 and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
After returning home, Pautler enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau.
He later transferred to St. Louis University and earned a degree in accounting.
Pautler was the Union R-XI School District maintenance supervisor for 22 years.