Oral Sutliff, 77 of Boyne City, is retiring from the Boyne City Fire Department after 52 years of service.
Sutliff worked at a bank in Boyne City as his first job and at 25 started volunteering at the fire department.
“It’s been an honor and a duty,” Sutliff said. “It’s rewarding.”
He added, “When the fire whistle blows, every firefighter’s got one thing on his mind … and that’s to get to the fire and get it out.”
Sutliff spoke about times when he’d walk out the back door of the bank and get on the fire truck, joining the rest of the crew when there was a fire.
According to Sutliff, he retired from paid work 13 years ago, and now that he’s 77, it is time for him to retire from volunteering as well.
“I’m 77 and I’m just too old to haul a hose,” he said. “It’s gotten complicated to operate—maybe not complicated for a young person—but complicated for somebody my age.”
The best part about the fire department for Sutliff was the camaraderie with the other firemen.
But, Sutliff said the job wasn’t without its challenges.
“Sometimes, if the alarm goes off halfway through your dinner, or in the middle of the night, that’s when you’re a true fireman,” he said. “I remember when my family was younger, there would be bad electrical storms and we’d have a fire somewhere. They sure didn’t want me to leave and I didn’t want to leave but I did.”
Sutliff added, “I figured, if you’re going to be a fireman you’re going to do it, so I did it.”
Sutliff worked at numerous jobs including the Charlevoix County Road Commission, Grandvue, for a petroleum distributor in Boyne, the Charlevoix Transit, the Charlevoix County Commission on Aging and he even started a bookkeeping service, retiring in 2003.
“I’ve worked for the fire department 52 years—I’ve only been married 51,” Sutliff said. “I’ve been married to the department longer than my wife.”
He added, “My wife’s got a to-do list and it’s just time to get out. So I did, I retired from active work for 13 years and I’m working on the to do list.”