Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Bernard C. 'Pete' Chapman; 1926-2014: WWII veteran became Toledo fire district chief

Bernard C. “Pete” Chapman, 88, a Toledo firefighter who retired as a district chief, died May 18 in his South Toledo home.

He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Chapman joined Toledo’‍s fire force in 1953. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1961 and captain in 1967. He became a district chief — the equivalent of a battalion chief today — in 1973. He served at fire stations in West Toledo, South Toledo, East Toledo, and the central city and at Station No. 1 downtown. He retired in April, 1979.

“He was well respected by his peers,” said Robert Schwanzl, a retired assistant chief of the Toledo department.

Competing for promotion came naturally, his daughter, Linda, said. He was the youngest of five brothers and in high school ran track and played football and basketball.

“He would never expect one of his men to do something he himself would not do,” his daughter said. He knew the risks in firefighting. He’d lost friends and co-workers to what is known as the Trail Fire, when on June 10, 1961, a gasoline tanker crashed, burned, and exploded on the Anthony Wayne Trail. Four firefighters died, and 71 people, firefighters and civilians, were injured.

But, as he told his daughter for an oral history project: “I felt really good to be saving the lives and property of others.”

He was born March 27, 1926, in Mount Morris, Mich., to Teresa and Joseph Chapman. He graduated from St. Mary School at 17 and joined the Navy. He served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and after taking time to travel the country, joined the Coast Guard. He was assigned to Toledo and the Tupelo, the vessel assigned to the Coast Guard’‍s Bay View Station.

In retirement, he and his wife moved to the Michigan property where he’d spent summers as a boy, about 50 miles south of the Straits of Mackinac.

Surviving are his wife, Shirley, whom he married Aug. 12, 1950; daughter, Linda Coon; sons, Paul, Dale, and Kevin; six grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

A Last Alarm service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Toledo Firefighters Local 92 on Washington Street between Ontario and Erie streets, where the family will greet guests after 10 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to Senior Independence Hospice or the Toledo Firefighters Museum.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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