Two veteran GF firefighters to retire
The Grand Forks Fire Department will lose close to 70 years of experience with the Saturday retirements of firefighters Rick Coulter and Jerry Vein. Coulter, 62, joined the department in 1972. He served as a firefighter, firetruck driver and capt...
The Grand Forks Fire Department will lose close to 70 years of experience with the Saturday retirements of firefighters Rick Coulter and Jerry Vein.
Coulter, 62, joined the department in 1972. He served as a firefighter, firetruck driver and captain before he was promoted to battalion chief in 1999.
"I don't know that there was ever a day that I didn't enjoy my work," Coulter said.
Vein, also 62, began his career with the department in 1979. He was a firefighter and a backup firetruck driver. In 1994, he became a fire marshal.
"People worked together," Vein said of the department. "People kind of helped each other all the time."
Fire Marshal Vein
Vein grew up nearby on a farm between Niagara and Fordville, N.D. He started as a firefighter in 1968 when the Navy assigned him the job. He served in Alaska for a year and spent three years on the USS Kitty Hawk. On that aircraft carrier, he did two tours off the coast of Vietnam.
After his time in the Navy, Vein took a firefighter gig in Hemet, Calif., and worked there for almost five years. Eventually, he wanted to be closer to his family, so he accepted a firefighter job in Grand Forks.
Later on, as one of three fire marshals in the department, Vein investigated the causes of fires and inspected businesses for fire-code violations. He estimates he did about 800 inspections in 2010.
As a retiree, Vein said, he'll continue instructing first aid at Altru Hospital and start teaching defensive-driving courses to seniors.
"I want to give back to the community what they've given me over the years," he said.
Battalion Chief Coulter
Coulter, who was raised in East Grand Forks, spent four years in the Army, including a year in Vietnam. He served as a battalion communications officer for an air-defense artillery that provided perimeter protection and convoy escorts.
He said he "never had an inkling of being a firefighter or anything like that." But when he returned from the service, he took a position with the Grand Forks Fire Department. "Shortly after I started, I loved it," he said.
Coulter liked the camaraderie of the job. "We spend a third of our lives working together, and it developed into kind of a close-knit family," he said.
In his retirement, Coulter plans to build furniture. He also expects to take some time adjusting to a new wardrobe.
"For 42 years, I've been putting on a uniform," he said. "I'm going to have to buy clothes now I've been wearing uniforms for so long."
Reach Ingersoll at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to email@example.com .