Chief William “Bill” Shechter
Attended Delaware Valley College and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School.
Bill is survived by his wife, Patricia, and children Todd, David, and Jenny. Todd works for Oregon State University as the Director of Information Technology; David is a firefighter-paramedic with the Madison, Wisconsin Fire Department; and, Jenny is currently serving at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
When Chief Shechter died in 2013, he was serving as a commissioner for the University Fire Service Area and as a conductor of the 113-year-old Tanana Valley Railroad at Pioneer Park, in addition to serving numerous other charitable and service organizations. He had previously served as the Director of Emergency Operations for the Fairbanks North Star Borough and as Fire Chief for the City of Fairbanks after leaving the University Fire Department as Fire Chief.
How many years were you with the University of Alaska Fire Department?
16 years, 1970 – 1986; four years as Fire Chief and 12 years as Assistant Chief.
What is your favorite memory, story, experience, etc. while at the University Fire Department?
One of Bill’s favorite things to do (and one of the students’ fondest memories) was to plan elaborate training drills that created a sense of realism. These drills involved train cars, an airplane on campus, and vehicles piled up or over embankments. He also enjoyed treating the entire crew for ice cream at Dairy Queen every week after Monday Night Drill.
Bill was born Jan. 7, 1944, in Philadelphia, Pa. He attended Delaware Valley College and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School for five years but left to pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter. He got his start in the fire service in the Lower Merion Township Fire Department. After an adventurous car trip to Alaska with his friend, David Silver, Bill applied for and was hired by the City of Fairbanks Fire Department. He enjoyed many outdoor Alaskan activities and decided this would be home for him.
In 1970, he became assistant fire chief for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Fire Department. Bill liked working with the student firefighters and the challenge of training them, maintaining acceptable grades and encouraging their youthful enthusiasm. His favorite activity was planning elaborate training exercises for the department.
In 1971, Bill married Patricia Eisele, an elementary school teacher, in Fairbanks. They had three children; Todd, David and Jenny. Bill liked to take his family on vacation trips in their camper to the Lower 48, where they visited many historical places. The tires of the various campers touched 47 states and Canada.
In 1982, Bill was promoted to fire chief of the University Fire Department where he continued to work with students to help them establish careers in the fire service. He helped the department grow in apparatus, paid officers and drivers.
Bill went back to the City of Fairbanks Fire Department in 1986, as fire chief. His first priority was to repaint the chief's car from lime green to fire engine red.
He ended his fire service career as the emergency manager for the Fairbanks North Star Borough. In that position, he was able to work with all of the area fire departments in helping to protect Fairbanks.
Bill was also very active in his children's lives. He was a Boy Scout leader for Troop 78. He helped lead them on many campouts, winter and summer. He chaperoned two jamboree trips, a bus trip to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch and an adventure to Magadan, Russia, with the Podvig Boys' Club. Bill was very proud that his sons were both awarded the rank of Eagle Scout and he was honored with the Silver Beaver award. Bill endured numerous band concerts, sports team events and parent-teacher conferences for his kids. He was especially enthusiastic to ring his obnoxious cowbell for his daughter's goals during her hockey games.
Bill was the proud owner of four golden retrievers. He loved to walk them all over Fairbanks for 5-6 miles every day. He always enjoyed talking to total strangers who would stop and ask about the dogs.
Retirement in the year 2000 was such an exciting time for Bill and Patti as they had time to travel in their camper and volunteer for various community groups. Bill had great organizational and computer skills and was secretary for seven different groups.
Bill's favorite activity was being a conductor of the 113-year-old steam engine at Pioneer Park. He looked forward to sharing his love of Fairbanks and history of the train with local and tourist passengers. He was secretary for the Friends of the Tanana Valley Railroad and managed the museum store in the train station. He and his wife were in charge of the special Spooky Train and Santa Express runs.
He was secretary for the Chena Kiwanis Club. He helped with the TEFAP food distribution program at the Fairbanks Community Food Bank and especially liked helping with the Christmas tree sales and the Terrific Kids programs in local elementary schools.
Bill was a member of the Volunteer Services program at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. He was secretary for the board of directors and managed the Mini-Library where he and his wife could be seen taking the magazine and book cart to patients in the hospital on Saturdays. He was also on the FMH Trust Fund Committee.
Serving on the University Fire Service Area Commission was a way for Bill to keep active with the University Fire Department. He was secretary for that group as well. Bill also served on the Finance Committee for Sacred Heart Cathedral and was on the University Street Light Commission.