PEORIA, Ill. — Gone, but never forgotten.
For 37 years, men and women of local fire departments have met in remembrance of Vernon “Butch” Gudat.
Gudat was a Peoria firefighter, known as brave and courageous by his loved ones, who gave his life in the line of duty in 1983.
Every year his children, Mike and Michele, hold a service to honor him while being surrounded by nearly 100 local firefighters.
“They stay together, they stick together, they protect each other. Our dad was a testament to that “fireman’s firefighter,” Mike Gudat said.
“That love and support and that brotherhood that they’ve continued to bring us in, that’s what we remember. Back in the day, back in the 80’s when we were young. That’s what we continue to get to this day even though our father has passed 37 years ago,” Michele Gudat said.
On Thursday, WMBD spoke with the man whose life Butch saved the day he passed away.
“To me, he was like a mentor and a hero. I was on the hose line with Butch when that wall collapsed. It was a bad day,” said retired Peoria firefighter Mike Morrow.
Morrow says the brotherhood between the firefighters is one that lasts a lifetime. He says he is forever thankful for Butch and his sacrifice.
Now, Mike and Michele are continuing Butch’s legacy by helping others.
“In 2006, we started a foundation as a living legacy to our dad. Our goal with that is to give back to a couple recipients each year, a $1,500 scholarship as well as a $1,000 fire prevention grant,” Mike Gudat said.
Each applicant for the scholarship writes an essay that applicants have to write about the topic of courage, family, and/or community.