TOP PHOTO: July 31 is officially the last day of the 33 year career of La Follette Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Hatmaker.
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – After a distinguished 33-year career as a firefighter and leader at the La Follette Fire Department, Assistant Chief Eddie Hatmaker is calling it a career.
With only a couple of weeks to go before he walks out of the fire house for good, Hatmaker was taken by surprise Tuesday morning at city hall. He walked into an auditorium full of friends, family and fellow firefighters for what ended up really being a surprise party. Hatmaker walked around for a few moments with an “I’m not sure what to do” look on his face, and then noticed the crowd, table of food, and the cake. His daughters, Brooke Goins and Emily Hicks, were there with his grandchildren and his wife Bertha.
Brooke recalled a lot the sacrifices her father made over the years. “All I’ve ever known was him and my papaw (late Caryville Chief James Hatmaker) at the fire department. He’s missed Christmas and stuff before when he’d be at work,” said Brooke.
“Dad’s been at the fire department longer than I’ve been alive. I was brought up on hearing the tones, fire tones from the fire radio, and knew it was time to get out of the way or run move my car,” said Emily.
“He’s done this all his life, and it’s going to be different. He’ll miss it,” said Bertha. After a couple of presentations, all the firefighters gathered on the auditorium stage and photos being snapped, Bertha came back and said, “Bittersweet. This is bittersweet.” “This is a brotherhood. They’re real close. It’s going to take some adjusting being away from this family. Though I look forward to starting a new chapter,” said Bertha.
“You’re not gonna get a lot out of him,” said Hatmaker’s dear friend, Charlie Hutson. “I’m gonna miss the people and with emphasis said “not the work.” All-in-all, Hatmaker sidestepped injuries and close calls through the decades, but there was the time he was rear ended. “We were watering the flowers when a woman rear ended my truck,” said Hatmaker.
When asked what he’s going to do, Hatmaker said “whatever Bertha says.” He’ll continue as Caryville’s Fire Chief. “I may end up mowing the yard twice a week,” said a laughing Hatmaker. “He’ll be taking up baby sitting,” said Emily. “That’s a negative,” said Hatmaker. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/20/2022-6AM-PHOTOS COURTESY OF WLAF’S CHARLIE HUTSON)