PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — On Jan 23, 1983, Peoria Fire Caption Vernon “Butch” Gudat was fighting a fire at the Main Street apartment complex in downtown Peoria. After 16 years serving the Peoria Fire Department, he made the ultimate sacrifice and died in the line of duty at that fire.
He is the last Peoria first responder to die in the line of duty.
For the past 38 years, Gudat’s children Mike and Michele have hosted gatherings at his gravesite to honor his memory. They established the Butch Gudat Fund as a “living legacy” to their father.
Since the foundation began 13 years ago, they have granted 28 scholarships totaling $42,000m as well as 14 Fire Prevention Grants totaling $12,000.
This year, the annual gathering went on without a hitch despite COVID-19 at the Lutheran Cemetery in Peoria.
“The fact that since 1983 there’s been no loss of first responders in Peoria is amazing,” Mike Gudat said.
Dunlap High School senior Haley Richardson and Richwoods High School senior John Harris both won the 2021 foundation scholarships. The Washington Fire Department is the recipient of the Fire Prevention Grant this year.