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A day in the life of a Fire Chief/Wedding Planner

Beech Grove Volunteer Fire Chief James Gunter tells of a day in the life of a Fire Chief/Wedding Planner!


So tonight, I want to tell you a story…..


It’s kind of a long story but has a happy ending…..


But first I have a question…..are volunteer firefighters classified as wedding planners or wedding crashers?


Intrigued yet?


Here we go……


In my 40 years in the fire service, I’ve pretty much seen it all, done it all, or so I thought. And then there was today…..


At about 11:30 this morning Beech Grove resident Bonetta Adams Smith called me twice, back-to-back. I was in a meeting and let it go to voicemail the first time, but the second time I figured I better answer….this can’t be good.


So, Bonetta tells me that a young man was at her house who was looking to borrow a generator. It seems that he was getting married this afternoon at Maroon Ridge Event Venue (which is next door to Bonetta and Arnold Smith’s house) and the venue had no electricity.


A tree had fallen on their electric line during Monday’s hurricane (BGVFD actually cut the tree off the line after being rendered safe by Jasper-Newton Electric Cooperative). So, the young man (who is the groom) was concerned that their dream wedding was about to be in the dark and heat.


He asked if I knew of anyone with a generator who might be willing to help. I committed to trying my best, but the shrinking 4-hour time frame might prove challenging. But I would try….


I first called the owner of the venue, Matt Schneider, who was on vacation in Florida. Matt told me he had offered to move the wedding to a different date, but that wasn’t possible. It seems both the bride and groom are active sailors in the United States Navy, and today was the only date that fit their schedule. Plus, they already had family and friends coming in from all over the world.


Matt was very understanding and helpful, offering his available resources and the venue manager as needed.....exactly what a good business owner does.


It took me about 30 minutes to get to the venue (I was at Rayburn). While on the way, I called Bonetta back. She confirmed that she had already contacted JNEC, pleading for assistance, but no guarantees.....after all, they only had THOUSANDS of customers without electricity immediately following Hurricane Beryl.


I contacted my friends Seth Martindale (Seth Martindale for Jasper County Commissioner Precinct 1), Mike Lout (KJAS Radio) and Billy Williford (Doug Williford & Son) to inquire as to who might have a generator, and if they did, who would have time to help hook it up and get this Navy couple married!


And that’s where it all started to come together……


Seth had a light plant generator. He said it would take him 30 minutes, but he’d deliver it full of fuel and ready to go. Mike and Billy both volunteered to do the electrical wiring to tie it into the building (yes, Billy is a Master Electrician).


I warned them, this wasn’t a paying job. This was a benevolent effort to make this couple’s wedding day memorable…..in a good way. The only compensation would be the satisfaction of knowing that they helped a young couple get married, a couple who are in service to the people of the United States of America.


Enough said, it was time to go to work……


I’ll spare you the gory details, but proud of the fact that at about 3:30pm, we had electricity to the water well (so the restrooms worked for the expected 150 guests attending), we had lights on inside the venue, and we had fans, big fans, circulating air….it was hot today 🥵.


Oh and about 8,000 feet of extension cords. 🤣 Lights, fans, cords, etc. all courtesy of BGVFD and Martha N Keith Stephens.


Now I’m pretty sure that most everyone of us had already called any contacts we had with JNEC in hopes of getting the electric lines repaired and back on by 4pm. You see, the groom had already told me that he just had a feeling that when the wedding was over and he was able to kiss his bride, bam 💥 the electricity was going to come on!


That was going to require divine intervention…….


But low and behold at about 3:45pm, in rolled JNEC…….lots of linemen and several bucket trucks strong!


Time for them to go to work!


Greg Howard said they needed 15-20 minutes to make the repair. He asked for help blocking US Highway 190 so they could restring the lines. BGVFD took care of that……


At exactly 4:00pm, again exactly 4:00pm, the electricity was restored!


We missed the “kiss window” but I didn’t hear any complaints…….after all, THEY NOW HAD AIR CONDITIONING!


And the rest is now history…..


Please join us with congratulating Daniel Zavala, USN, and Bondita Schubert, USN, on what we hope turned into the happiest day of their life!


You can’t make this stuff up. Good people doing good things for the betterment of this community.


Every. Single. One.


So back to my original question, do volunteer firefighters qualify as wedding planners or wedding crashers?


Scratch that. New question, do people in the community who actually care about other humans still exist?


Why yes, they do. Today’s events prove just that.


I posted yesterday morning following a wild weather Monday, “if you woke up this morning be grateful”.


I’ll say it louder today for those in the back, IF YOU WOKE UP THIS MORNING BE GRATEFUL!


Just do what’s right. Just do what you can. It really is that simple……


Congratulations Daniel and Bondita. Wishing you a lifetime of happiness. And thank you for your service!


And thanks Bonetta and Arnold for not giving up and making sure this young couple had a great wedding!


And my last question......Beryl who?


James Gunter

Fire Chief

Beech Grove VFD


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