BOTKINS — The role of a volunteer firefighter is one that is all too easily taken for granted. These men and women work countless hours for little pay, while more often than not working an additional full-time job elsewhere.
For Ed Burden, 63, of Botkins, firefighting was more than a job; it was a duty.
Burden, a recently-retired 40-year veteran of the Botkins Fire Department, began his career in in the late 1970s around the age of 22.
Firefighting was a bit of a family affair for Burden. Both his father, Richard, and brother, John, worked for the Botkins Fire Department. Burden said it was John who suggested he join.
“My brother asked me and I said, ‘Sure! Why not?’”
Burden said the job’s low wage was never a deterrent.
“When I first started, we got paid $2 per run,” he said. “No matter if you were out there for an hour or for 12 hours, $2 is all you got paid. Now, it’s up to $18 to $20 per run.”
“A lot of people, if they don’t get paid good money, they won’t volunteer their time,” he continued. “But, you know, you’re helping people.”
Prior to his job at the fire department, Burden said he worked for Kah Nursery in Botkins from the time he was 14 years old until he was 18. At 18, he got a job at Provico Farm Supply (now Sunrise Cooperative Inc.), where he worked for 44 years. Burden also worked part-time, at night and on weekends, for Ryder throughout the years.
He and his wife, Kathleen, both decided 2018 would be the year they would retire together.
Kathleen, originally of New Hampshire, Ohio, was in her senior year of high school when she and Burden met.
“We met in January (of 1974), the year after I graduated,” Burden said. “By Easter we were engaged and we were married within a year of the time I met her.”
Kathleen worked for about 25 years as a housekeeper at Wilson Health, he said. She retired at the beginning of the year at the same time Burden retired from Sunrise. He waited until the end of June to leave from the fire department.
“We decided to retire at the beginning of the year because look how many people are dying of cancer before they turn 60,” Burden said. “And how many people die right after they retire at 65 or 66 — why not enjoy life?”
Burden attributed another reason for he and his wife’s early retirement to the heartaches they’ve experienced throughout their lives.
“I lost my daughter (Mandy Shoup) about 19 years ago,” Burden said. “She died in Anna in a car accident. Nine months later, her husband (Shane Shoup) died. They had a kid (Alex Shoup). About 10 years after my daughter died, my son (Ed the second) was killed in an automobile accident. Then, a little over a year ago, my grandson (Alex) died of cancer. He was 21. That’s why we retired early — because of what we’ve been through.”
Burden finds happiness by spending time with family and visiting Lake Hope by Hocking Hills — where he’s been going for over 20 years. He also has plenty of advice, which he said he follows himself, when it comes to staying youthful.
“In order to stay young, you’ve got to misbehave once in awhile,” he said. “And if you’ve got any kids you’ve got to learn how they’re misbehaving and pulling stuff on you because if you don’t you aren’t going to keep up with them. You’ve got to misbehave every now and then in order to keep in the loop. A lot of people don’t realize that.”
Burden was honored for his 40 years of service at the Botkins Village Council meeting on Aug. 14.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.