The longest-standing volunteer firefighter from the Valley Stream Fire Department — at 66 years — Walter Weltner, 84, died of complications of Parkinson’s disease on Aug. 29.
Born on April 11, 1935, Weltner was a lifelong Valley Stream resident. In the 1950s, he attended trade school at Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee Local 25 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Weltner started as apprentice in the IBEW in 1956, and later became a journeyman electrical contractor. He retired from the contracting business in 2002, at 67, after 46 years on the job.
He was sworn into the Valley Stream Fire Department as a member of Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 on June 15, 1953, before transferring to Engine No. 3 in 1956.
In 1965, he was elected a lieutenant in the Fire Department, and a year later he was made captain of Engine Company No. 3. Weltner also served as secretary for the department’s 100th Anniversary Committee from 1994 to 1998. In 2000, Walter became the department secretary, a position he held until 2017.
While captain, Weltner rescued a child who was trapped upstairs in a burning house in 1966. “It’s a rare opportunity to be able to save a life, and he did just that, which says something about his service,” said former Fire Chief James Ervolino, a friend and fellow firefighter from Engine No. 3 “. . . He was always in the right place at the right time.”
Weltner was also known for being a great colleague. “Anytime I had a problem, I could talk to Walter,” said Charles Parker, also a former chief from Engine No. 3. “I could always talk to Walter because he could see both sides of every situation, and he always gave a resolution.”
The two were friends for 53 years.
After he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010, Weltner’s Lutheran faith helped him cope with the disease, according to his sons. He was longtime member of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Valley Stream, and served as president of its church council for 20 years, starting in the 1970s. It was a role that involved him meeting the needs of the church community financially, physically and spiritually.
“My father’s faith made him never give up, and it helped him to accept what he was presented with, and it pushed him to be a fighter until the end,” his son Walter Jr. said “My father never made anything about him, because even with his illness he cared about people.”
“My father always lived by, ‘Do unto others as you want them to do to you,’” his other son, Steven said. “He stood out in society because he was in charge of the spiritual and financial runnings of the church for 20 years.”
Dozens of firefighters, family members and friends gathered for three wakes at Moore Funeral Home to honor Weltner, and his funeral was held on Sept. 3 at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior on Rockaway Avenue.
There, many members of its congregation spoke of Weltner’s dedication to the needs of his church community.
“Walter was a good man who knew his Lord and Savior. He was a reader of the gospel on Sundays at church, and he helped people spiritually,” said Ruth Feuerstack, 91, a church member for 85 years who had known Weltner since he was a child.
“Walter was so helpful because he always fixed everything in the church,” she continued, referring to the lights Weltner assembled to illuminate its main cross during night services.
“Walter had a wonderful Christian attitude,” said Audrey Conlon, 90, a member of the Lutheran church since 1955. “Walter did a lot for the church.”
She added that he had helped install air conditioning in the building. The two had lived on the same block, she said, and she had known Weltner for more than 60 years.
“I’ve known Walter for many decades, and he was a man of integrity, who was smart and always ready to help,” Lotte Kloeckener, said, speaking at his funeral. She later told the Herald that Weltner had also helped install ceiling fans at the church.
In addition to his sons, Weltner is survived by his daughters-in-law, Kathy and Lynn; his sister, Judith, and her husband Louis; and four grandchildren. He is predeceased by his wife, Lucille and brother, Charles. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Jean.
Weltner was buried at the Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation, 1359 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10018 or at Parkinson.org.