By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO November 29, 2002 After 27 years as Sullivan Countys Fire Coordinator, 71-year-old Harold Iggy Kronenberg decided to retire, thus hanging up his turnout gear and permanently parking his distinctive red emergency response car, Sullivan County Car One.
On Sunday, November 24, the local volunteer fire services community turned out in force to wish him well at a retirement dinner held at Kutshers Country Club. An estimated crowd of 250-275 attended the event originally scheduled for last Sunday, but postponed due to a severe ice storm.
Twenty-one years ago, Kronenberg and Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen teamed up to establish the Sullivan County Arson Task Force.
To me, Harold is the ultimate public servant, said Lungen. Years ago when he first started, he did the job for free, sacrificing his business and family, only because he loved it.
He got to know Kronenberg through the fire service, as well. Lungen has been a member of the Mountaindale Volunteer Fire Department since 1965. He was chief of the department for 10 years.
Lungen called the retiring county fire coordinator Sullivan Countys number one public servant. . . . Hes the best.
Deputy Fire Coordinator Richard Dick Martinkovic was recently appointed by the county legislature to take over as fire coordinator after working for Kronenberg for 24 years.
Harold was always there for us, said Martinkovic of his boss dedication to the local firefighting community. As fire coordinator, he represented 40 different fire companies. ... Hes done a lot for us.
No retirement dinner would be complete without some roasting stories of the honorees exploits during a long career.
Martinkovic recalled racing to a fire scene when a hubcap popped off the coordinators car and passed him on the road on the way to a bumpy landing in a field.
Several other guest speakers made joking references to Kronenbergs propensity for hitting deer or did they aim for his car? enroute to fires.
Lungen presented Kronenberg with a box of old car parts compliments of the mechanics at the countys Department of Public Works (the guys who fixed the cars).
According to the countys DA, he investigated Kronenbergs driving records over a three-year period and came up with a total of eight DPW repair estimates for his 1988 station wagon, all deer-related incidents, that you killed because they got in the way of your car . . . and in that regard I have a gift for you.
Lungen then presented Kronenberg with a special DEC big game hunting license, with motor vehicle permit, a fictitious document he called unique in the State of New York.
But Kronenberg did get real awards. In presenting a certificate of special recognition on behalf of the countys arson task force, Lungen added that Kronenberg was named the organizations first life-time member.
He never undertook his responsibilities [as fire coordinator] for money, ego, ambition or notoriety, said Lungen. In my mind, Harold is responsible for putting together and coordinating a united fire service, with all the benefits of an advancing technology radio systems, mutual aid, ambulance corps coordination and now 911.
Your commitment to the fire service has saved lives and property, he added. You have always given to others.
Sullivan County Sheriff Daniel Hogue said that, of his 42 years in law enforcement, hes known Kronenberg for a good 30.
We fought an uphill battle to get things done in Sullivan County, he said. You were there for the cops in this county the troopers, the deputies and the cops.
He got us educated in firematics, added Hogue. A lot of bad people [arsonists] who never got caught before are getting caught now.
Sullivan County Manager Dan Briggs said, When you mix training and dedication, youre called a professional; when you mix compassion and caring, youre called a friend; when you mix bravery and selflessness, youre called a hero. When you mix all three, youre called a firefighter.
Jim Cavello, NYS Fire Instructor, served as emcee for the honorary dinner.
Harold put Sullivan County on the map, he said. Firematics got our name out there in the state.
NYS Fire Administrator James A. Burns of the Office of Fire Prevention & Control in Albany called Kronenberg a real gem in the fire service.
He was one of those fire coordinators who held the line, he said. If the state needs you, well call. Thats the way the system is designed.
Reading a letter to Kronenberg from NYS Governor George Pataki, he said the governor cited the retiring fire coordinators lifes work, as exemplified by his devotion to the fire service.
Other guest speakers included NYS Police Captain Patrick Reagan, who referred to Kronenbergs efforts to build positive relationships between the State Police and emergency services personnel, and Andrew Dickinson of the NYS Office of Fire, who said, Harold was always looking out for the firefighters and their departments.
Kronenberg was recognized by numerous politicians and organizations: the Sullivan County Legislature, State Sen. John J. Bonacic, Assemblyman Jake Gunther, the Association of NYS Fire Districts and the NYS Emergency Managers Association.
The final guest speakers were members of Harold Kronenbergs own volunteer fire department in Woodridge: Chief Paul Podhurst and Isaac Yits Kantrowitz, past president of the Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters Association (SCVFA).
They presented the outgoing county fire coordinator with a blue roof light and good wishes for his retirement.
He was a ball-buster, but he was a great guy to have in our department, said Kantrowitz. Harold, in the eyes of our department, youll always be Chief Harold Kronenberg.
At the conclusion of the retirement dinner, Kronenberg said he was very humbled and honored at the large turnout.
According to Kronenberg, he plans to take it easy for a little while after turning in the keys to Sullivan County Car One, but I hope to find something to do, because I dont like just hanging around.