Don Hahne, the longest currently serving active member of the Washington Volunteer Fire Company, received the 2013 Washingtonian Award Saturday evening.
Hahne, Washington, received a standing ovation from a crowd of over 500 people at the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce banquet where the award is presented each year by The Missourian.
Bill Miller Jr., who presented the award, said Hahne’s record of over 60 years of volunteer service with the fire department may never be matched.
“If you want to know why we have the country’s best volunteer fire company, you need look no further than tonight’s honoree,” Miller said. “His dedication, his commitment, his example to the fire department and our community is what the Washingtonian Award is all about.”
Miller noted that in over six decades of service, Hahne has responded to thousands of fires and other emergency calls and served the fire company in every possible role, including as its chief from 1968 to 1981. Before that, he served as its assistant chief, captain, lieutenant and company secretary and treasurer.
Over his lengthy career, Hahne has received numerous citations of merits for service, including being named firefighter of the year in 1984.
In addition to volunteering with the Washington fire company, Hahne has also been active with the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri. That organization presented him with its coveted Lifetime Achievement Award last year.
Miller noted that when Hahne wasn’t fighting fires he was busy volunteering in the community in other ways.
Beginning as a sophomore at Washington High School, Hahne began playing “Taps” on his trumpet at military funerals or armed service personnel brought home from the battlefields of World War II to be buried here. He has been a regular performer with his trumpet at Memorial Day and other military services ever since.
He also played in a number of dance bands and was a regular as a member of the Washington Brass Band, which he directed for years.
Miller pointed out that at 81 years of age, Hahne doesn’t make as many 3 a.m. fire calls as he used to but he is still an active member of the fire company and currently serves as a safety man for the ladder truck. He still attends meetings and training sessions.
Miller told the crowd that when he asked Hahne why he volunteered for so many years, he responded simply and humbly: “I get a lot of satisfaction in helping others in a time of need.”
Hahne told the crowd how grateful he was to receive the award even though he didn’t feel worthy to be recognized with the likes of Ralph Gregory, the Eckelkamps, Rick Hopp and other past recipients of the Washingtonian Award.
He also gave credit to his wife Joan “who took care of the kids and the house while I was out playing fireman and doing my other volunteer activities.”