City fire captain retires

After 20 years of service, he bids his job farewell and looks forward to the free time
Sunday, January 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:06 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

For the first time in two decades, Columbia Fire Department Capt. Colin Tegerdine will spend most nights at home. Tegerdine, 44, completed his final 24-hour shift at the fire station at 2 this morning. No longer will he spend 56 hours per week eating, sleeping and waiting for the next fire call.

“You don’t do something for 20 years and then just walk away,” Tegerdine said at a retirement reception Friday. “It’s tough.”

His wife of 18 years, Marianne, puts it more directly.

“He’s going to be home all the time,” she said. “It’s going to be weird.”

The Tegerdine family has developed a routine during the past 20 years. Family events were planned around days Dad would be home from the fire station. Christmas was always a gamble. His four children prayed their birthdays would fall on off-duty dates. It didn’t always work out.

“I missed a lot of soccer games,” Tegerdine said. “I missed a lot of birthdays. The hot water heater blows up in the house, and you can’t go home and fix it. That’s one of the things that’s always been difficult.”

The children, now 10, 12, 14 and 16, have grown accustomed to their father’s odd schedule. So has Marianne.

“When he first started, it took some time getting used to him being gone all the time,” she said. “Now, he’ll be home and it’ll also take some time getting used to.”

Marianne, who works full time as a software administrator at First National Bank, knows it will be a positive change. A family friend threatened to buy her husband a bucket of cleaning supplies as a retirement present.

Tegerdine has some ideas for how he wants to spend his retirement. He already paints houses part time, something he did full time before becoming a firefighter in 1983. He said he took a 50 percent pay cut to join the department.

“I looked at painting as a job,” he said. “This was a career.”

A career dotted with accomplishments that include a unit citation for a water rescue in March 1997 in which the two children eventually died in the hospital after falling into a pool. Despite the honor, Tegerdine considers it a low point in his career. One boy who drowned was the same age as his own son.

“It was really hard on him,” Marianne said. “Everybody was upset.”

Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Sapp graduated from Hickman High School with Tegerdine in 1977. Sapp said it’s unusual for firefighters to stay with the department past the age of 50.

“It’s a young person’s profession,” he said. “When you put on that gear, it’s an additional 50 pounds of equipment you weigh yourself down with.”

The department pension plan allows retirement after 20 years. Tegerdine’s departure makes way for a new captain. Sapp said the promotion will be made internally, and interviews are scheduled to begin next week.

Tegerdine said he was not interested in an administrative position, which allows senior firefighters to take a more supervisory role.

“I prefer to be active, on the scene, guiding people,” he said.

Tegerdine plans to paint, play golf and finally be a full-time soccer dad.

“I’ll find some mischief to get into,” he said.

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