GILMORE CITY - Firefighters and emergency medical personnel from the area will join Gilmore City residents today to pay final respects to that community's fire chief who died Tuesday after apparently suffering a heart attack while responding to a blaze.
Larry Nielsen, 60, was in a fire truck on the way to a barn fire when he became ill Tuesday evening.
''You couldn't find a better fireman,'' said Assistant Fire Chief Lowell Johnson.
Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. today in the Gilmore City Public School. Services will begin at 2 p.m. in the school. Following the service, Nielsen will be buried in Marble Valley Cemetery north of Gilmore City.
Nielsen had been a volunteer firefighter for 41 years. He had also been a volunteer emergency medical technician with the Gilmore City Ambulance Service for 39 years, and was its director.
Johnson said Nielsen ''lived and breathed'' for the Fire Department and Ambulance Service.
Nielsen was employed by Gilmore City for 30 years, and retired last year as utilities supervisor. He was also the sexton of the Marble Valley Cemetery.
"We are all very sad," said Gilmore City Councilwoman LaVonne Hoover. "He had a lot of talent and made a lot of contributions."
"When I think of Larry, I think of a good dad and a good citizen in the community," she added.
Dean Jergens, who was a volunteer firefighter in Gilmore City for 15 years, said Nielsen was always calm at emergency scenes.
"Usually, everyone is panicking at fires," Jergens said. "Not Larry. He knew what had to be done. He had everything set up the right way."
"He was always Johnny on the spot," Jergens added.
He said Nielsen had previously been the assistant fire chief. He became the fire chief in June.
Bob Allen, a Gilmore City volunteer firefighter, said Nielsen used to stay in the town if he knew other members of the Fire Department and Ambulance Service would be away. Allen said that was his way of ensuring that someone would be available to respond to emergency calls.
Johnson recalled that Nielsen was a pitcher on a softball team in the 1970s and 1980s. He added that the chief had lost an index finger in a farming accident, but found that the absence of the finger somehow helped him to pitch a ''wicked sinker.''
Nielsen also coached a girls softball team. A tournament win by that team resulted in humorous incident, according to Johnson. He said the victorious girls wanted to dump water on their coach but he ran away.
''They chased him all over the field,'' Johnson said. ''Every time they got close, he'd speed up. It went on and on and on and everybody was laughing.''
According to Johnson, Nielsen grew up on a farm near Gilmore City. Nielsen, he said, started his career with the W.H. Goodrich tractor dealership in Gilmore City before being hired by the local government to be the assistant utilities superintendent.