Cooney Tucker, Honored
As taken from the Northwest Allen County News of Wed., August 5, 1987
By Judy Ramsey
Tucker is Honored Citizen for Willow Creek Festival
CONRAD “COONEY” TUCKER, Huntertown, is this year’s Honored Citizen for the Willow Creek Festival and will lead the festival’s parade on Saturday, August 15th at 10 a.m. Cooney, a tall, humble gentleman, was quite moved when he said, “I am grateful for this honor.”
According to David Rudolph, president of the Willow Creek Festival Committee, Cooney was unanimously chosen from all the names submitted by the community and the festival’s nine-member committee. The Honored Citizen of the Willow Creek Festival is a senior citizen from Huntertown whose past work and contributions have left a lasting impression which benefited the community.
In naming just a few of the reasons the committee chose Tucker, Rudolph claimed that because of Cooney “we have one of the best volunteer fire departments in the area, if not in the state.”
In 1923, Cooney was 11 when his father moved the family to Huntertown to accept a position with the bank as a cashier. Up to this time, the Tucker family had moved from one city to another in parts of Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Before the family settled into their home in Huntertown, Cooney said he never finished a year in the same school he started. His father was the one who eventually taught Cooney how to read.
As an adult, Cooney strived to give of himself to help others. A golden opportunity presented itself when the president of the Huntertown Lions Club appointed Cooney to a committee of two to rejuvenate a weak fire department. In November of 1939, Cooney dropped his membership with the Lions Club in order to devote more time to this task. Cooney served as chief engineer of the department for four years and was elected chief in 1947. He held this position, with the exception of one year, until 1977.
From 1941 to 1947 Cooney took arson seminars and instructor’s training classes at Purdue University during his vacations from International Harvester. In 1940, Cooney joined the Allen County Sheriff’s Reserve and was appointed captain of Harvester’s Plant Fire Brigade. He subsequently left Harvester in 1947 to become self-em0loyed as a heavy equipment contractor. Ten years later, Cooney was appointed to the Allen County Sheriff’s Department as jailer where he served as radio dispatcher, patrolman, detective, arson investigator and warrants officer.
In 1968 Harold Zeis, mayor of Fort Wayne, appointed Cooney as Civil Defense director for Allen County. During this period he taught at the Fort Wayne Police Academy, chaired the First Aid Committee of the Allen County Red Cross and trained first aiders and ambulance crews throughout the state.
Cooney organized and trained Huntertown’s first Ambulance Service in 1954, and it continues today under the EMS program.
Cooney served as vice president and training officer for the Northeastern Indiana Industrial and Volunteer Firemen’s Association until the organization affiliated itself with the Indiana Volunteer Firemen’s Association. In the winter of 1947, he taught five fire schools each week in five northeastern Indiana counties. Cooney was then appointed Training Officer for the Sixth District by Bill Goodwin, chairman of the District. Cooney served as training officer thereafter under numerous chairmen. He also served terms on the Board of Directors for the Indiana Firemen’s Association and was appointed by Governor Matthew Welsh to the Fire Marshal’s Personnel Advisory Committee after the 1963 Fairgrounds Disaster.
In 1971, Cooney was appointed to the Fire Fighting Personnel Standards and Education Commission by Governor Whitcomb and re-appointed by Governor Otis Bowen to a four-year term in 1977. He was appointed the new Fire Marshal by William Goodwin upon the retirement of Bert Moser.
Phillip Baughman, chief of Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department says Cooney is a ‘fantastic gentleman who has dedicated his life to promoting the Volunteer Fire Services.” He also said, “There is not a volunteer fire station in this state that this man could not walk into and not be recognized.”
Jim Dietsch, assistant chief of Huntertown Volunteer Fire Department, has known Cooney since he was a teenager. Dietsch said a number of people whom Cooney instructed at Huntertown had continued on and have succeeded in advancing their fire fighting careers elsewhere.
Cooney had abandoned teaching his fire fighters training in the state until recently. When his wife, Beverley, died last year, fire fighters from around the state held fundraisers for Cooney to help with medical bills. The volunteer fire departments raised $20,000 for Cooney. Since then, Cooney has returned to fire training because, he said, “After the boys did so much to help me, I felt I should help them and this is the only way I can find to do that.”
Cooney’s only regret in life stems from his boxing days when he was a Golden Glove fighter scheduled to fight Joe Lewis in a three round match in Chicago. By the end of the second bout, both fighters had acquired a number of points; consequently the third round would decide the match. The referee stopped the fight minutes after the bell sounded. An old scalp wound had reopened on Cooney’s head after he butted heads with Lewis, and he was slowly becoming saturated in blood. This match was fought in March and the following July, Lewis went pro. Cooney still wishes to this day that he had been able to go the entire third round with Lewis.
Cooney has two daughters, Barbara Dice and Janet Foreman. The Willow Creek Festival is August 13-15 in Huntertown at the school grounds.