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The third and final bell

1,000 people pay their respects to fallen volunteer firefighter

Two uniformed men stood watch at either end of Mark A. Haudenschild II’s flag-draped casket in the center of the sanctuary. In front of the casket stood a photo of Haudenschild and his infant son next to a blanket depicting a firefighter’s hat and A Fireman’s Prayer.

The prayer closes with the line: “And if, according to my fate, I am to lose my life, please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.”

Blessings for Janet Haudenschild and her children abounded at The Chapel on Saturday afternoon, as nearly 1,000 friends, family members and emergency service workers paid their final respects to Haudenschild.

St. Joseph Township Fire Department. Whitley County EMS. Poe Fire Rescue.

A volunteer and assistant chief engineer with the Washington Township Fire Department, Haudenschild died last Sunday. He was responding to a brush fire when his truck flipped at Hillegas and Butler roads in Fort Wayne. He had not been wearing his seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle, which pinned him to the ground.

Before the ceremony began, a slideshow of snapshots played on The Chapel’s two large projection screens: Haudenschild with his son, Mark Haudenschild III, on his lap for his first birthday, the baby’s mouth smeared with blue icing; a baby wrapped in Haudenschild’s firefighter coat, like a blanket; a portrait of Haudenschild in full protective gear, holding his son, their eyes locked in a stare.

As music began, the uniformed personnel began their way into the church – down an aisle, around to pass by the casket and into their seats.

Southwest Fire District. Fort Wayne Fire Department. New Haven Police Department.

It took uniformed personnel a full 15 minutes to enter the church and be seated. The service was so large, it could not be held at Haudenschild’s home church, Sugar Grove Church of God in Churubusco, said Rick Hawks, pastor at The Chapel.

Sugar Grove Pastor Tim Grable officiated at The Chapel service. As he shared his memories, he said he’d known Haudenschild since he was a child. He remembered once when Haudenschild was a boy, he insisted Grable pet his new pet, Iggie the iguana. Grable remembered when an older Haudenschild began to bring a woman to church, and he remembered when he and that woman asked Grable to join the two in matrimony.

Nine people shared eulogies with their memories of Haudenschild, painting a picture of a mischievous man who loved his family and his God. His brother-in-law told a story about flying remote control planes together, and Haudenschild crashed his in a ditch, sending up a spray of bits and pieces of airplane.

A childhood neighbor remembered when Haudenschild was a boy, he used to bang on his door, “Joe, let me in, Dad’s after me!” and his father told the church about Haudenschild’s love of fishing and hunting and practical jokes. As a boy, his father said, Haudenschild was not above plastic wrap on a toilet seat or shaving cream in a shoe.

Northeast Fire & EMS. Decatur Fire Department. Aboite EMS.

After the service, a procession of fire trucks, police cars, ambulances and more drove nearly 22 miles to Riverview Cemetery in Churubusco.

In addition to the professional and volunteer emergency adult squads, at least one small group of teenagers attended the funeral, the Poe Cadets.

Made up of a handful of 14- to 17-year-olds, the Cadets provide training for teens interesting in learning the skills necessary to be a firefighter. The teens helped park cars at The Chapel and stayed involved with the funeral to the end.

“That’s a lot for a teenage mind to comprehend,” said Dani Myers, with Hoagland EMS, whose son is one of the Cadets.

After the emergency workers lined up around the gravesite, family members and friends pulled in ahead of the hearse, which was a blue and white Washington Township fire truck. Mourners surrounded the truck, walking next to it, holding on to a piece of it, a community of pall bearers.

After bagpipers finished playing and after Grable said a few words, firefighters rang a bell for Haudenschild, three rings, three times, because the life of a firefighter is associated with a bell: The day starts with a bell, and a bell rings when there is a fire. When a fire has been extinguished, a bell rings.

This was Haudenschild’s final bell.

After men removed the flag from Haudenschild’s casket, they folded it and presented Janet Haudenschild with the keepsake.

Haudenschild’s helmet was then offered to dozens of emergency personnel. Each placed his or her hand on the helmet in a sort of blessing or goodbye, and each walked past the casket and left a single white carnation.

Before two helicopters flew overhead, a scanner radio crackled with static and beeps. A woman’s voice sounded, “Fire 686. Final call for assistant chief engineer Mark Haudenschild II … He has gone home. May he rest in peace.”

Janet Haudenschild

. Kyra Haudenschild, 1. Mark Haudenschild III, 3.

jyouhana@jg.net

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