Bill Braun gave a lot to his community over the years.
And on Sunday, February 7, hundreds of people from Warman and the surrounding area paid their respects to the longest-serving member of the Warman Fire Rescue organization.
Braun, who passed away on Monday, February 1 at the age of 83 from a brain tumour, was a lifelong resident of the area and a member of the Warman Fire Department from 1968 till 2012, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant. He served on Warman Town Council from 1970 to 1985; was twice honoured as Fireman of the Year in 1997 and 2003; and was awarded the Warman Citizen of the Year honour in 2006.
He leaves behind his wife of 59 years, Catharine; daughter Maxine (Wes Enns), sons Ivan (Luella), Gary (Vera), and Glen; 17 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren; brother Aron and sister Margaret. He was predeceased by his son Dale and daughter-in-law Dorothy.
His funeral service at the Warman Bergthaler Mennonite Church was attended by hundreds of people.
An honour guard of firefighters from Warman, Martensville, Osler, Dalmeny, Langham and Rosthern stood at attention as Bill Braun’s casket passed slowly in front of them after the service, and several fire trucks led the interment procession. Braun’s yellow firefighter helmet was carried by one of his grandsons, Joshua Braun, who is a member of the Calgary Fire Department.
The church service was a fitting reflection of Braun’s life: reserved and respectful but with a touch of quirky humour.
Gord Thompson, who retired as Warman Fire Chief last December, paid tribute to his long-time friend and colleague.
“Bill was always there to help,” said Thompson. “He was our resident Mr. Fix-it; he was our treasurer for many years and kept the books right to the penny; he kept the vehicles running and the hall spotless.”
Thompson said all the firefighters in communities in the North Corman Park area had great respect for Braun.
“During the Warman fire department’s monthly meetings, Bill would usually comment that he’d been around so long, he deserved a watch,” said Thompson. “When Bill eventually did retire, he got a watch… from every single member of the department.”
Thompson said Braun was a veteran of countless emergency calls, but is best remembered for quietly, and single-handedly, preventing what would have been a memorable, and very embarrassing, fire.
“Bill saved our old fire hall from burning down one day,” said Thompson. “Bill always checked the vehicles twice a day every day when he went for coffee. On this occasion he discovered a battery in one of the fire trucks was overheating. It would have caught fire, but he unplugged it and saved our hall and our trucks.”
Members of Braun’s extended family honoured his legacy at the church service. His son Ivan and daughter Maxine shared the story of their father’s life; while his great-granddaughter Madison Milot moved everyone to tears with her crystal clear vocal rendition of “Amazing Grace.” John Hein conveyed his brother-in-law’s spiritual faith through leading three congregational hymns.
Pastor Martin Wiebe said Bill had achieved “inner peace” in the months leading up to his passing.
Bill and Catharine Braun raised not only their own children, but also took care of many other youngsters at their home over the years. They also volunteered in countless community organizations.
Bill worked behind the scenes over the years sewing thousands of blankets and clothes for the needy, both at home and in other countries.
Memorial donations in honour of Bill Braun may be made to Warman Fire Rescue, Box 1267, Warman, SK S0K 4S0.