After serving as a firefighter for 35 years, Wayne Williams, 62, retired from the Indianapolis Fire Department in April. Although the fire department said goodbye to one member of the Williams family, two more still remain. Williams' sons Deaun, 31, and Michael, 36, began their own careers fighting fires last year.
Deaun and Michael enrolled in the fire department largely because of Williams' service. The family's multi-generational dedication to fighting fires shows how someone's passion for their job can spread to others.
Williams said he "really didn't decide" to become a firefighter. He needed a job, his wife had family in the fire department and there were openings, so he applied. Even though he didn't expect to, Williams soon fell in love with the work. His favorite part of firefighting was driving the firetruck because he could operate a large and powerful machine while being part of closely-knit team.
"It's a lot of power and control," Williams said. "You've got three other guys you have to look out for, and on fires you have to make sure your equipment is running because of the safety of them and the safety of the people you are trying to save. It was cool."
Williams said his team was close partially because of the downtime between emergencies where firefighters would get to know each other. They bonded over shared cooking duties. His "Wayne Burgers" with fried potatoes made Williams popular at the firehouse.
"It's like one big family," Williams said. "Once you are a firefighter, you are a firefighter all over the nation. Just one big family."
Williams' passion for firefighting spread to Deaun and Michael when they were kids. Deaun remembers sitting in a firetruck as a child while Williams drove, seeing all the equipment inside and thinking his dad had the coolest job in the world. He had no qualms about sharing that belief.
"You go to school as a youngster and all your friends ask, 'What does your dad do?' and 'firefighter' is the coolest thing you can think of doing as a school-aged kid, so I got to brag a lot," Deaun said.
While Deaun knew he wanted to be a firefighter all his life, Michael discovered his passion for firefighting as an adult. For 12 years Michael had jobs such as working sales at AT&T that never felt like a potential lifelong career. He eventually decided to become a firefighter because of his dad and was surprised how much he enjoyed the work and lifestyle.
"Once I got this job, I knew this
would be the last job I was ever going to have, so that eased my mind," Michael said.
Williams is proud his sons continued in his footsteps. He still tries to share what he learned over 35 years of firefighting with Deaun and Michael whenever he can, with his biggest piece of advice being always respect the job.
"That means going in every day, doing your job, going in on time and not causing any kind of trouble," Williams said. "Just do your job and be the best firefighter you can be. There's a lot of pride in the fire department."
Because they are new Deaun and Michael are currently probationary firefighters, so they rotate which station they work at every two months. They even had a few shifts alongside their father before he retired.
"I grew up in that firehouse with those guys, and they've seen me grow up," Deaun said. "Coming back to spend time there and actually making money doing it and having a role was a surreal moment because that has been my dream, and I got to do it with my dad for a while."
Both Deaun and Michael are excited to honor their father's legacy. The legacy may even extend past them. Michael said his 5-year-old son and 3-year old daughter are equally passionate about firefighting as he and his brother were as children. "They think they are firefighters already," Michael said. "Anytime I work they think they are supposed to be working."
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.
Friends of Frederick Douglass Park believe the park is more than a plot of land with trees and a jungle gym. It's a part of Martindale-Brightwood's social fabric, where everything from weddings to sporting events to lazy Sundays take place. To return the favor, the friends provide neighborhood residents opportunities to support Frederick Douglass Park.
"It's my second home, in reality," Frankie Casel, the group's president, said about the park. "... I want to always have a nice light on Douglass. I want it to shine."
Casel co-founded Friends of Frederick Douglass Park over 20 years ago to provide options and awareness for those who want to support the park. As a nonprofit partner to Frederick Douglass Park that is independent from Indy Parks, the group hosts fundraising events and provides advertising.
"They've been very vital in our growth, I believe," Kenyatta Moore, assistant manager for Frederick Douglass Park, said. "I wouldn't know what to do without them, honestly."
The friends' main fundraising strategy is hosting and charging admission for events such as bingo games. When park officials need extra money for a project such as renovations, providing breakfast to lifeguards or a trip to the zoo for the daycare,
they dip into the fund.
One of the organization's biggest events is the biannual senior citizen's dance. While the party's name, theme and date change, it always features music, dancing, food, gifts and the naming of the dance's king and queen. The different themes create new experiences every dance. For example, Casel remembered an attendee once wore a diaper for a Halloween-themed dance. "She took the stage with that diaper on," Casel said, laughing at the memory. "She was dancing all over."
In addition to hosting their own events, Friends of Frederick Douglass Park provides support for other fundraisers. Last summer, managers held a yard sale fundraiser where they sold donated items such as clothing, appliances and bath items. On a one-day notice, the friends, with the help of five local children, printed flyers advertising the yard sale and personally delivered them to over 900 homes.
"They really came through," Moore said. "... I still think about it. I don't know how they did it in that short amount of time."
Linda Minter, treasurer, said the volunteer organization continues out of appreciation of the park's history. Frederick Douglass Park opened in 1927 as Indianapolis' first park for African Americans. Minter remembers visiting Frederick Douglass Park as a teenager to skate, swim and socialize.
"Everybody would congregate on the circle, and that was fun time for teenagers," Minter said. "I don't think the businesses disliked us because we had a little money, and we could purchase things. I remember Murphy's being on the circle and buying the popcorn — the best caramel popcorn ever."
Thanks to Friends of Frederick Douglass Park, the legacy continues. Amina B. Pierson, executive director of the Martindale-Brightwood Community Development Corporation, visits the park's golf course weekly with her golfing club and appreciates what the park means for Martindale-Brightwood. "Every neighborhood should have a place where families can go that's nearby, that's considered their spot, and they shouldn't feel like it's inferior to other parks," Pierson said.
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.
Become a friend Looking to donate to or possibly join Friends of Frederick Douglass Park? Call or text 317-327-7275.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is updating your credential cards — again. No, it's not Real ID. These updates are supposed to make credentials — driver's licenses, permits and identification cards — more secure, and information such as date of birth and address is better organized.
There are also some aesthetic changes. You can get an IndyCar race car or a cardinal on the bottom right of the card, and your photo is in black and white. The material is also more durable.
The state began issuing the updated cards at the Beech Grove branch in June, and they should be available at all locations across the state and online by mid-July.
This is what you need to know about the changes.
The biggest change is an update in security features. The last time Indiana issued a new license was in 2007, and that's a long time for counterfeiters to perfect their technique and steal your identity (or let 19-year-olds into bars).
These updated cards have more ultraviolet features. Unlike current cards, which have less ultraviolet markings, the updated cards
have different patterns depending on which one it is, so what shows up on a driver's license is different from what shows up on a learner's permit.
The text on updated cards is laser etched, rather than printed. Stephen Leak, executive director of credential programs for the BMV, explained printer technology is much easier for a counterfeiter to get ahold of and use to replicate a credential than it is with laser technology.
Updated cards also have a raised date of birth, so you can feel it on the card. Leak said all of these features will hopefully make it more difficult for counterfeiters to replicate the cards, although he added Indiana has been lucky to not have experienced an uptick in fraud cases.
"We try to stay ahead of the game and not wait until we're captured and have people who are out there counterfeiting cards," he said.
How does this impact Real ID?
It doesn't. If you haven't updated your credential to Real ID, your new credential won't automatically do that. To update to a Real ID, you basically have to pretend you're going to the BMV for the first time. That means showing up in person and having all the documents you would need normally, including one that proves your identity and two that prove your permanent address in Indiana. (A full list of required documents is listed at in.gov/bmv.)
The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, gave states minimum security standards for their credentials. Indiana introduced Real ID in 2010 and became the first state to reach federal compliance.
All states have until Oct. 1, 2020 to be in compliance. After that, federal agencies won't accept noncompliant credentials. That includes the Transportation Security Agency, so you won't be able to fly starting October 2020 if you're not updated. Real ID cards have a star in the upper right corner.
How to update
Don't worry about rushing out to get a new driver's license or identification card. Your current one is still good until its expiration date, and as Leak noted, security hasn't been a big problem in Indiana.
By mid-July, any BMV branch you go to should be ready to issue an updated credential. You may also be able to update online and at BMV Connect kiosks. But remember that if you don't have a Real ID yet and want to upgrade, you'll have to go to a branch with all of the required documents.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.