By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Coaldale’s fire hall used to be home for Andy Van Rijn for the past 40 years but it’s not anymore. Van Rijn, former Coaldale and District Emergency Services fire chief has retired, with his official retirement date at the end of the month.
An open house was held last Friday for family and friends to say hi and to thank Van Rijn for a job well done.
After using up some much-needed holiday time, Van Rijn returned to work last Monday and Tuesday to assist the new fire chief with month-end items and to answer any questions Jean-Guy Mayer might have. “I’m always around if he has a question,” Van Rijn noted.
It’s hard coming back, Van Rijn added.
“I was gone for three weeks on holidays and I came back for two days and I’m not the boss anymore. Now, somebody else is in my office and it feels weird. I kind of say it’s like having your ex-wife move next door. You can watch but you can’t do anything. I hear sirens now when trucks are leaving town and I was at Tim Hortons having coffee and they had a call just west of town and you see the trucks going by and you’re not part of it anymore. No matter what you say, you’re welcome at the hall, and that’s all good, but it’s not the same,” said Van Rijn.
According to Van Rijn, he used to enjoy coming to calls and training nights because he had a chance to chat with fellow firefighters about life.
“Now, I’ll see them to wave to them or talk to them uptown once in a while but it’s not the same. You don’t have the same connection with them anymore,” Van Rijn said.
Van Rijn said, as for any plans once he retires at the end of the month, he’s going to wait until into the New Year to begin anything new.
“I finished off my basement. The first house I ever had that the whole house is done. I did that over the last three weeks. I think we’re going to take off to Las Vegas before Christmas and then in January we were planning on going to Mexico for a couple of weeks,” he said. His wife also retired recently.
He said the couple also plan to go to Phoenix and to Mississippi. “When I get back then I’ll start looking at something to do. I need something part-time to keep me from going stir crazy. I can’t just sit here and do nothing,” Van Rijn said.
Town of Coaldale Coun. Bill Chapman, who visited the open house to wish Van Rijn the best, said he’s simply grateful to Chief Van Rijn, adding Andy will always be a chief to Chapman.
“The reason I’m grateful is because he was a chief to the people and for the people,” Chapman said.
Chapman noted Van Rijn’s mentorship, not only as a resident of Coaldale but as a public servant and in a number of other capacities, were quite beneficial to the councillor.
“We’ve had a lot of chats and talks about different issues in town and his confidentiality was really astounding and very instrumental to me. Having that level of a relationship really, both on a professional and even as a community friend, really meant an awful lot to both my wife and myself,” said Chapman.
Really, Chapman added, Van Rijn was one of the members of the community that made him feel welcome in Coaldale and it certainly made him feel like a part of the community.
“Even to this day, it continues and we chat and talk and we play little pranks on each other and he’s always that public person that gives everybody a sense of appreciation and belonging in the community.”