Jake Lash

Mayor Suzanne Handshoe shakes hands with Kendallville Fire Department Capt. Jerry “Jake” Lash. Lash retired with 34 years experience from the department.

KENDALLVILLE — After 34 years of service, Capt. Jerry “Jake” Lash has served his last day with Kendallville Fire Department.

With an emotional farewell from the mayor and a heartfelt goodbye from the fire chief, Lash was recognized at Tuesday’s crowded Kendallville City Council meeting for his retirement.

On the anniversary of last year’s giant McCray Refrigerator factory fire, during which Lash served as operations chief directing equipment and firefighters across the industrial complex, Mayor Suzanne Handshoe choked up while sending off Lash to retirement.

“I’ve always called you ‘the hammer,’ because you always have (the fire chief’s) back. You’re the one who is always kicking butt if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do,” Handshoe said. “For you take control of all those trucks coming in from the outlining counties (at the McCray fire), I was just amazed.”

With a casual, no-big-deal attitude, Lash simply said of that day, “It was fun.”

“Jake has always had my back and even though I started before him, we’ve been through thick and thin together, might as well say we’ve been to hell and back,” Fire Chief Mike Riehm said.

Lash served as deputy chief under Riehm for eight years, but went back to being a fire captain due to changes in his personal life. Even still, Lash was someone the chief could always depend on.

“He’s always been one of my go-to guys, my confidant and just my right hand at times,” Riehm said. “So words can’t describe my appreciation for Jake and Kelly and what they’ve done for all of us. Thank you.”

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