97-Year-Old Volunteer Firefighter Dies

George Launchbaugh, a 97-year-old volunteer firefighter for Sheridan County (KS), has passed away.

He is believed to have been the nation’s oldest active volunteer fireman.

He died Saturday at Hays Medical Center as a result of complications from pneumonia, according to Steve Hirsch, training officer for the Sheridan County Fire Department and second vice chairman of National Volunteer Fire Council.

While there’s no official method of keeping track of the oldest active firefighter, Hirsch said he frequently attended meetings of the national group when the issue of the oldest active firefighter came up.

When the question turned his way, Hirsch quietly would say 97.

No one even could come close.

Launchbaugh was an active member of the McGraw Station, located northeast of Hoxie. That’s also where his funeral service was conducted, at the still-active McGraw United Methodist Church.

It was a standing-room-only crowd at the church, Hirsch said, testament to Launchbaugh’s standing in the community and the county’s fire department.

Launchbaugh’s son, Steve, now is station chief at the McGraw Station.

While Hirsch said the McGraw station, housing a fire truck designed to fight brush fires, didn’t respond to many calls, he still marveled 97-year-old Launchbaugh continued to respond, as well.

Hirsch said Launchbaugh remained “spry.”

“Pretty incredible guy,” he said. “If you ever went away from him and didn’t feel like he was your long-lost friend, you weren’t listening.”

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