By Sterling McGinn
The 96-year-old brick fire station in Newberry, simply known for decades as Newberry Fire Station #1, has a new name, and a familiar one for that matter.
On Tuesday, July 4, veteran firefighter Peter Rahilly received a surprise of a lifetime when the station, where he has served out of for 48 years, was officially renamed Peter Rahilly Fire Station #1.
The dedication took place shortly after the conclusion of the parade on the Fourth.
A large crowd of Rahilly’s family and friends gathered at the Annual Fire Department Open House and BBQ, where Fire Chief John Wendt and other firefighters unveiled a banner sporting the new name of the department’s home base.
“Naming the Newberry Fire Department hall after Pete is truly an honor for us and a very humble thanks for all that he has done,” Wendt said.
Rahilly was also selected to serve as this year’s grand marshal for the Annual Kiwanis Independence Day parade. The theme honored local superheroes.
“The Kiwanis told us that Pete was going to be the grand marshal and we thought it would be a good time to do this,” said Fire Department Secretary Tony Immel.
Former fire chiefs Dale Immel and Phil Nelson, plus present and retired firefighters, were also in attendance to congratulate the longtime first responder.
Tony Immel and Fire Chief Wendt approached the Newberry Village Council for their approval of the dedication, which was unanimously passed by the board at the June meeting.
Rahilly has been a firefighter for 48 consecutive years and has served longer than any other firefighter since the first fire brigade was organized here in 1886.
He is also a retired member of the Luce County EMS, where he served for over 40 years.
Rahilly is held in high esteem by his fellow firefighters who note his dedication and commitment to the Newberry Fire Department.
“He is what every firefighter should strive to be like,” Wendt said.
“Pete is always giving—he is that guy that steps up to the plate,” Tony Immel explained. “He is willing to be there no matter what time of the day. Even after 48 years of serving the community, he still shows up at three in the morning—that is why we did this.”
Rahilly, a native of Newberry, is a 1967 Newberry High School graduate and U.S. Army veteran. He has spent most of his life working in the shop at the Ford Garage, which had been owned by the Rahilly family for many years and is now known as Chuck Renze Ford.
He is an avid ham radio operator, but his truest hobby is helping his community and fellow citizens.
Rahilly and his wife, Lori, reside on a farm near McMillan.
The department will install a permanent plaque and will invite the Newberry Village Council and retired fire department personnel to the ceremony when it arrives.
In the meantime, a temporary banner proclaiming the station’s new name hangs over the main door of the station.
“It was truly a surprise and I am very honored,” Rahilly said.