ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Firefighters carry floral arrangements from the funeral home in tribute to Thomas Hartz Sr.
Wave after wave of friends, firefighters, family, and community members came to bid farewell Saturday afternoon to the late Thomas "Tom" Hartz Sr., 52-year active Tamaqua firefighter, remembering him for his willful mind, sense of humor, knowledge, and life-long dedication to the Citizen's Fire Company.
Saturday's funeral procession started off with a grand departure from the E. Franklin Griffiths Funeral Home on East Broad Street in Tamaqua with more than 40 firefighters in their dress uniforms saluting, escorting, and surrounding Tom's casket while also carefully raising it onto the back of a black bunting-covered Citizen's Fire Company fire truck.
More than 60 vehicles, including 25 fire trucks originating from as far away as West Hazleton and Pottsville, joined the Citizen's truck as it slowly proceeded through Tamaqua on its way to the Sky View Cemetery in Hometown.
Half way through Tamaqua, the Citizen's Fire Company set off its station's whistle in honor of Hartz.
Fire Police and other fire companies from surrounding departments were strategically stationed throughout Tamaqua and Hometown to stop or detour traffic during the lengthy mobile procession, whichwas then greeted by two raised ladder trucks from Coaldale and McAdoo, with Garrison flag, as well as saluting firefighters, as it turned east onto SR54 from SR309 north in Hometown.
Hartz, 70, of Tamaqua, died March 24. Fellow firefighters stressed their great respect for Tom's wife of 47 years, Kathy.
Hartz' civic concern led him to a storied tenure as a volunteer fireman and 50-year member of the Citizens Fire Company, Tamaqua.
Holding both social and line officer duties, he served as a trustee, captain, recording secretary, safety officer, and for many years was the company's fire chief.
In conjunction with his constant dedication to fire company responsibilities, he was first assistant to the chief of the Community of Tamaqua during the tenure of Chief Robert "Bip" Delay.
Hartz belonged to the Six-County Fireman's Association, Schuylkill County Fireman's Relief, and the State Fireman's Association.
He helped to organize many community-sponsored parades.
Members of the Citizen's Fire Company stated their respect for Tom, also known as "Old Man," by telling hundreds of stories related to all that he had done since he started with the fire company 52 years ago, such as: Besides being a father and grandfather to everyone, Tom would speak his mind and didn't care what anyone thought, while also earning respect through knowledge; Hartz's staple was his cigar. He always had it in his mouth; Tom could tell you engaging stories that would keep your undivided attention because he was here 52 years.
A number of events are planned in remembrance of Hartz's lifelong dedication to the Citizen's Fire Company, as well as his wife's shared support and dedication.
Tom Sr. is also a part of a family legacy of dedicated firefighters and hard workers.
Surviving in addition to Kathy are three daughters, Andrea "Candy" Hartz, Lynn Ann (Hartz) Navratil, and Jennifer Hartz of Tamaqua; four sons, Thomas H. Hartz Jr.(Chief of the Citizen's firefighter), Michael Hartz, Jeffrey S. Hartz(firefighter), and Jason G. Hartz(Captain of the Citizen's Fire Company), all of Tamaqua; two sisters, Jeanette (Hartz) Kline, and Paula (Hartz) Mertz of Tamaqua. Christopher Hartz serves as the Chief Engineer of the Citizen's Fire Company.
The funeral service at the cemetery ended decorously with the playing of bagpipes and "last call", in which all pagers and scanners went off and the Schuylkill County Communication Center broadcasted: "Tamaqua Fire Department. This is the last call, last call for firefighter Tom Hartz Sr."