SIZE UP Issue 3 • 2017


From the Chaplain’s Study

Rev. Wayne F. Jagow, Chaplain

New York State Association of Fire Chaplains, Inc.

Editor’s Note: This column is the Memorial Address delivered at the NYSAFC 111th Annual Conference on June 15, 2017.


In Memory of the Rear Tailboard


AS THE CHAPLAIN OF the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, I am so thankful that I have this opportunity to bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in the fire service as you take the time

in this impressive service to remember those who have made a contribution of their time to the State Fire Chiefs.


The visual image of the flag being folded and presented to the chief, the candles losing their flame, the comforting words of Scripture, the soothing melody of song, and over two pages of names take just about 45 minutes out of life, but they are important to us because we need to remember, for when we remember, there is also the gift of hope for the future. We remember men and women – wonderful men and women – who really made a difference in our communities and in our lives. Today, if you will, I would like to put a different twist on remembering – not a person but a thing – “the rear tailboard.” It’s known by other names in other departments, but it doesn’t exist anymore. Basically, young people will never know – because of very good safety concerns and common sense – some of the things I remember.


I remember being a 14-year-old boy in my brand new uniform with my newly painted drum. I was hanging on the bar standing on the tailboard on my way to my first parade and my dad was driving the engine. Then I became a fireman (and I know this will make safety officers cringe) running for the engine and reaching out for the hand that pulled me up to the tailboard. Then there was the ultimate – to ride through town with the siren and lights and see your steady girl with her mother and to give her the wave and see her nudge her mother and know that you were “the super wonder boy” volunteer fireman!


I remember as chaplain being so thankful that the tailboard was there to hold a wife and mother as I tried to console her after telling her that her husband had lost his life trying to save their daughter after going back into their burning home. The tailboard also seemed to be a gathering spot while on stand-by, and I remember a young husband trying to come to terms with the end of his marriage. The tailboard was a focal point and a place to put everything into perspective.


Our fire hall is safe now and complies with all of the rules. There are no rigs with tailboards except for one – a 1944 Buffalo 750-gallon pumper that I helped to restore, which we use for fire prevention programs and for funerals of our members. We carry the casket in the hose bed and two uniformed firefighters are on the tailboard. The Buffalo is housed in the sub-station and looks so small in comparison to the massive 2,000-gallon engine that sits next to it, yet it is a reminder to us that what we do in the fire service is not about all of the modern wonderful equipment we have that every year is being updated. No, it is still about that fragile human being that fulfills the words of John 15, “No greater love is this, than a man lay down his life for his fellow man.” The writer John was talking about you and me – not superheroes, but everyday people who give of their time to care for their fellow human beings. That, dear friends, is truly the spirit that makes our cities, towns, villages, and counties really work. From huge metro departments to the tiny two-bay hall, there is the human spirit ready to lay down its life to serve. We remember that and celebrate it today!


We all need this moment in time, and I am sure that if you look in some of your station houses, you will find tucked away in some safe corner behind some mammoth firefighting beast, a tribute to years gone by with a huge rear tailboard that will help put everything into perspective and make it easier to say, “Brothers and sisters of the fire service, we miss you and from the rear tailboard, we salute you.” Amen. ●



Rev. Wayne F. Jagow is the chaplain for the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. He is the retired county clerk of Niagara County and retired pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Newfane, N.Y. Jagow has served as chief chaplain of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains, Inc. (1998-2000) and president of the Niagara County Volunteer Firemen’s Association. He is a member of the Wrights Corners Exempt Volunteer Fire Company.