By Jim Misunas
ST. JOHN — One of Leonard Getty’s final public gestures was bidding successfully for a hand-made bow at a benefit for Brynlin Sanders, who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
Getty, 59, the longtime St. John fire chief, died in an apparent agricultural last week and was honored by Stafford County and Barton County firefighters Saturday. Getty died at the Heyen feedlot east of St. John after being found trapped between the bucket and frame of a Bobcat style front-end loader.
The farmer/stockman leaves behind his wife Diane; two sons, Travis and Heath Getty of St. John; a daughter, Leah Ward of St. John; two sisters, Linda Cooper, Guymon, Okla., and Charlene Hill of St. John; and three grandchildren.
Wade Sanders, Brynlin’s Sanders’ grandfather, served as a firefighter with Getty for more than 20 years.
"Leonard was proud he was able to help Brylin and our family will treasure that as a memory," he said. "Leonard was a man with a big heart who always liked to help people. I know that’s why he enjoyed being a firefighter."
St. John Fire Chief Mike Sanders appreciated Getty’s assistance with the family’s recent fundraiser. Mike Sanders’ brother, Marshall Sanders, presented a U.S. flag to the Getty family in a tribute Saturday.
"Leonard would do anything for anybody who needed help," Mike Sanders said. "He was a firefighter who always knew what he was doing."
Steve Woody, emergency services director for Stafford County, said Getty’s leadership helped St. John and Stafford County combine firefighting services in one location at 636 E. 4th. The city and county operated from separate buildings in the past.
"He helped us get a combined fire station and a combined operation," Woody said. "It allows us to share resources and streamline operations. Leonard was in firefighting for all the right reasons."
Nick Lauffer said one of Getty’s favorite hobbies was raising products from his garden, then giving everything away because he enjoyed helping others.
Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano coordinated an honor guard that paid respect for Mr. Getty. Dozens of firefighters attended the funeral service and a firefighter was stationed as a sentry.
"The Great Bend Honor Guard put on a display that will be etched in the memories of the 500 in attendance for the rest of their lives. At one point during the service there wasn’t a dry eye to be found," Moody said.
Stafford County dispatcher Cassie Blakeslee read off retired fire chief Leonard Getty’s final call at Fairview Park Cemetery.
"Attention all units and listening stations, this is the last call for Chief Leonard Getty with the St. John Fire Department.
"Chief Getty served the citizens of St. John, Stafford County and the state of Kansas for 23 years. He will be greatly missed by not only his wife, children and grandchildren, but also by those with whom he served at St. John Fire Department Station 320 and the numerous others who knew and loved him.
"Chief Getty ending tour of duty. May you rest in peace. Dispatch concluding."