Walter E. Hovey Jr., age 86, of Washburn, passed away on November 19, 2020 at Northern Lights Nursing Home after contracting COVID-19. He married Rose Egger in St Paul, MN on June 4, 1955 and they were loving parents to four children, Ann, Dan, Mark and Ruth.
In his early years, Walt joined the Army where he learned telecommunications. After the Army he became a lineman for Wisconsin Bell, a career that led him to move his family to Washburn, WI. Walt made lifelong friendships with his co-workers and enjoyed having breakfast with “the guys” for many years after retiring.
While his career was as a telephone lineman, Walt's passion was firefighting. Walt’s fire service career spanned 45 years, starting in Mondovi, Wisconsin and continuing in Washburn when he joined the Washburn Volunteer Fire Department in 1961. Walt worked his way up in the Department and ultimately became the Fire Chief, a position he held for 28 years. While Chief, Walt became active in the Wisconsin State Fire Chief’s Association, an association representing the entire state of Wisconsin. Again, Walt rose in the ranks becoming President in 1999-2000. No small feat for a Chief from a volunteer department in a small town. Walt played a key role in establishing The Service Award Program (formerly called the Length of Service Award Program) for volunteer fire fighters, first responders and emergency medical technicians in the State of Wisconsin. The program was created by 1999 and is a tax-deferred benefit program to assist municipalities in retaining volunteer fire fighters, first responders and emergency medical technicians. Walt commented that perhaps his involvement in this legislation caused his turkey hunting license application to be misplaced the following year.
Walt was a founder of the Bayfield County Fire and Emergency Association, serving as its first President and later as its Vice-President. He was instrumental in bringing the first fire training specialist to the area to develop a program to provide area fire and emergency departments with the opportunity to develop and professionalize their services. He remained active in the organization for over 20 years. In 2001, Walt was presented a Citation By The Assembly from the Wisconsin State Assembly for “his many years of dedicated service to his community and profession, having enhanced both in ways that will be felt for many years to come.”
Walt and Rose created the ultimate Washburn gathering place when they transformed Mike's Bar into The Firehouse Bar. Under their ownership, The Firehouse was THE PLACE TO BE! The whole town came in on Christmas Eve for free drinks, snacks and camaraderie. The Firehouse carried on the Mike's Bar famous recipe of Tombstone Pizza topped with fresh pepperoni, which was loved by generations of Washburnites.
Walt was an avid skier and took many ski trips out West. Walt volunteered as a member of the National Ski Patrol, serving for thirty-five years. At one point, Walt entered a Firehouse Bar team in the Bartenders Cup Race at Indianhead Mountain, Michigan. With just three legendary skiers from Ashwabay on the team, the competing teams joked about the team lacking the full six members. Well, much to their chagrin, Walt’s small team won for two consecutive years!! He really loved skiing. Walt enjoyed fishing in the Great Lake, hunting for turkeys and could fix anything with zip-ties or duct tape.
Walt was a pillar of the Washburn community, even being elected as Mayor of Washburn in 2002. In 2008, Walt received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washburn Chamber of Commerce for his many years of dedicated service to the Washburn Community.
Walt is survived by his children, Ann Hovey, Washburn, Dan Hovey, Washburn, Mark Hovey, Hopkins, MN, and Ruth Hovey, Medicine Lake, MN; four grandchildren, Brooke Defoe (Patrick), Megan Day (Rich), Zachary Hovey (Gypsee), Mallory Dovre (Lee); and, many great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Ruth Hovey; brother, William Hovey; and sisters, Marjorie Noll and Liz Klevgard.
Walt’s family would like to thank all of the staff at Northern Lights Services for the compassionate care they provided while Walt was a resident there. Particularly the night staff who fed Walt's midnight snack cravings.
A ceremony and visitation will begin at the Washburn Fire Hall at 1:00 pm on Saturday, November 28, 2020 with Military Honors provided by the United Chequamegon Area Veterans. Following the Honors, the Washburn Fire Department will lead a procession through Washburn, after which the family will assemble for a drive-by visitation. If you would like to share a memory of Walt, please write a note to be dropped off during the visitation.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Washburn Emergency Services (Fire Department) or the St. Louis Catholic Church, Washburn, WI.
To view this obituary online, sign the guest book or express online condolences, visit us at www.bratleyfamilyfuneral home.com