Hail to chief… Memory of Arthur Mellinger, who served Pioneer Fire Co. for more than 65 years, honored with dignified funeral procession

By on January 26, 2012

From late morning Tuesday through mid-afternoon, the movement and activity of emergency vehicles around the downtown area hinted at the significance of the services about to unfold.

Ephrata’s Arthur T. "Art" Mellinger, 96, who dedicated more than two-thirds of life to volunteer service in the Pioneer Fire Company, died Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 at Ephrata Manor.

Tuesday, a very special "fireman’s funeral" was planned here, with firetrucks and emergency vehicles surrounding the Trinity Lutheran Church prior to the service, which then led a mass procession to the burial at Memory Gardens north of town. Two firemen on board the Pioneer truck saluted his casket throughout the ride, which included a trip past the South State Street station where fireman were also lined up saluting the former chief. A special touch also was hearing the town siren wailing one last time for Mellinger, around the time the processional began.

Mellinger was a dedicated fireman who remained calm and efficient in the heat of a fire call and was well-liked and respected by his fellow firefighters. After joining the Pioneer Fire Company in February of 1940, Art served as fire chief for 11 years from 1949-60. He was also a driver for many years and served as a trustee for five years. He was instrumental in forming Zone 1 Firemen’s Association and served as its first president. He served on a committee to engineer the design for building the 1952 Dodge pumper which answered its first fire call on Jan. 29, 1953. Art was also played a large role in the company’s purchase of the 1955 Seagrave 85-foot aerial truck. When he reached 65 years of service, which happened to be on his 90th birthday, the firemen held a special celebration for him at Ephrata Manor where he resided.

In a 1998 Lancaster New Era article, Mellinger’s service to Pioneer was honored and lauded. It discussed how at 82 at the time, he still occasionally drove the truck. He looked back at the start of his career there in 1940 when the main piece of equipment was a 1917 solid tire pumper with no windshield and a hand-cranked siren. He also stated that if they needed to make a call in those days, they had to find a telephone somewhere, unlike today with radios and cell phones.

In that article, he reflected on his service and his hopes for the future.

"I just hope the volunteer system keeps going. You get satisfaction out of doing something for your community," Mellinger said.

Mellinger, who also a charter member and helped organize the Ephrata Fire Police, was honored in January of 2000 as an honorable mention "Greatest Residents of the Century" selection in a poll conducted by The Ephrata Review.

His wife, the late Annie Mellinger, passed away Feb. 7, 2008. Art was born in New Holland Sept. 19, 1915.

Mellinger was a longtime resident of Ephrata and worked at the former Dutchmaid Clothing Company as a sewing machine repairman. He was also a longtime member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and of course, the Ephrata Pioneer Fire Company.

Art is survived by several grandchildren, great grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were held on Jan. 24 with the Rev. Henry E. Herberner officiating. Place of interment was Memory Gardens, East Cocalico Township.

Donations in Art’s memory may be directed to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 167 E. Main St., Ephrata, PA 17522, or to the Ephrata Pioneer Fire Company, 135 S. State St., Ephrata, PA 17522.

To offer condolences, visit gravenorhomeforfunerals.com. More MELLINGER, page A16

About Ephrata Review