There’s A Big Void in Zumbro Falls
A Tribute to Dan Preble
By Dori Klein
The city of Zumbro Falls was shocked the week of October 7 with the sudden death of a pillar of the community, Dan Preble. Disbelief ran rampant and there were no words that could be found to describe the deep sense of loss that was being felt.
Dan was friendly, gregarious and had a bigger than life persona. He seemed to enjoy life and people in turn seemed to enjoy his company. According to his obituary he liked to fish, snowmobile and go on ranger rides. He was friendly and seemed to be ready to have a good time at a moment’s notice.
But he had a serious side to him too. He was the Chief of the Zumbro Falls Fire Department and he tackled his job with integrity and professionalism. He would readily know the numbers and the answers to the questions at the annual Fire Department meeting that was held with the townships. And if, by some slight chance he didn’t know the answer he sought out someone who did. He had a “take charge” attitude, but he was also able to look at different options, give others a chance or give them credit for a job well done. It was evident that members of the fire department had complete and utmost respect for him.
As a reporter for the Mazeppa-Zumbro Falls Messenger he was often the “go to” guy that I called for information about the fire department. He was a great resource. He returned my calls promptly, provided me with the information I needed and was also helpful in explaining things I didn’t understand. And though I called him many times, there are three things that he did and/or said that stand out to me.
One was his leadership during the 2010 flood. With him in charge, the fire department took on the unsurmountable task of trying to save many of the buildings as the flood waters rose, and when that proved futile, of getting people to safety. All the while, I might add, while his own home was flooding.
The second memory that stands out for me is when the fire department took part in a fundraising event for former fireman, Scott Deobald. At that time Deobald was going through cancer treatments and had lost all of his hair. Several firefighters raised about $4,000 and had their heads shaved in front of Scooter’s Bar. Last in line was Dan. Once his hair was shaved the chants began, “shave the mustache.” He was pretty reluctant to let his “signature” mustache go, but all of a sudden he seized the moment and raised another $200 before having it shaved off. Yup, he was always game to helping out his comrades whenever he could.
According to assistant fire chief, Bruce Heitmann, Dan had been a fireman for over 30 years and he had been chief for the last eight.
The third memory I have of him also relates to the flood. I interviewed him and his wife Kelly as they reflected on the one year anniversary of the flood. During the interview Dan stated that he felt as if he had “let his family down” during the flood. As a result, they made the decision to demolish their home and move up on top of the hill in Zumbro Falls. For him, he said, it was a way to “keep Kelly safe.” From his comment it was evident to me that he truly was a family-first man.
Yes, I think we can all agree that the passing of Dan Preble has left a void – not only for his family, but for the Zumbro Falls Fire Department and the entire community of Zumbro Falls. Sincere sympathy is extended to Kelly and his family, to members of the Zumbro Falls Fire Department, and to the many friends he leaves behind.
Rest in Peace Dan Preble. You’ve earned it.