|A Galesburg man who's been with the Galesburg Fire Department for two decades has called it a career.
Mike Whitson retired Friday. He was a fire investigator, but was also in charge of the department's rental property inspections. Whitson spent 20 years with the Galesburg Fire Department, and about three years prior to that on the Monmouth Fire Department.
Whitson tells WGIL one of his most moving experiences at a firefighter came when he still worked in Monmouth.
"[An] Arson Fire at Term City, where we lost an Assistant Chief there, Dennis Olson," Whitson said. "That was a very moving experience for me -- the tragedy of that set fire, and that to happen."
Whitson also cited the September 11th terrorist attacks where hundreds of firefighters' lives were lost, and last year's blaze at Hawkinson Manufacturing in Galesburg, where Whitson says at least two firefighters worried him for a time.
But Whitson also says the big positive is the brotherhood between firefighters. That's something he believes he'll miss the most.
Galesburg Fire Chief Tom Simkins tells WGIL he'll miss his right-hand man.
"More than anything, Mike -- for me -- has been, like, a real friend," Simkins said. "He's probably the guy I spend my first ten minutes every morning with, just chewing the fat, setting up my day. I noticed [Friday] morning, when I came in the parking lot, I usually park right next to him in the second spot. I'm parking in the first one, now."
Simkins described Whitson as a big morale booster for the Galesburg Fire Department.
(Former Galesburg Fire Chief John Cratty, and current Chief Tom Simkins, gather for a photo Saturday during a reception for Mike Whitson's retirement. WGIL News Story and Photo by Will Stevenson.)