KENTWOOD, Mich. -- Each week, Grand Rapids Harley Davidson and West Michigan’s Most Wanted recognize a member of law enforcement who’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to help the community they serve in.
This week, a Kentwood firefighter who has dedicated nearly four decades of combined service is being recognized as he enters retirement.
Captain Jim Harkes was honored for his service during a special celebration with his fellow servicemen and women.
"When you're young, you wonder, you know, and you just think it's going to happen someday, you don't give it much thought," said Harkes. "When it comes, it comes fast, and it kind of shocks you at first, but I'm ready."
Harkes started his career as a firefighter at 18 years old working part time. Full time work followed about eight years later. In his combined 39 years of service, 24 years have come and gone with the Kentwood Fire Department.
"I was driving to work this morning thinking, 'Wow, this is the last time I will do this,'," said Harkes. "And now just not to be affiliated with the guys anymore, just not having that team you know, you become somewhat of a family when you join the fire service, like now I am leaving the family. It's like I'm moving away or something. It's just not going to be there anymore, so it's a strange feeling."
Harkes' fellow firefighters, assuring both Harkes himself and our crew that they're not going anywhere, and will be there for Harkes in the future.
"Working with these people over the years, you get to know a lot of people," said Harkes. "You fight fires with these people, you teach classes with them and that type of thing. They are all here supporting me and I appreciate that."
"Over the past 24 years that I have been here, I have seen the Kentwood Fire Department grow, and I think it's probably the best fire department in the area, I will argue that with anybody," said Harkes. "But now it's their turn. We got some guys that are on, and it's time for them to step up and keep this department at the level it is and really make it an even better department."
Harkes says he plans to travel with his wife following retirement.
Congratulations to Captain Harkes for his nomination for the week of May 2.