Lehigh Valley

Remembering beloved firefighter who served for decades

Area's longest active volunteer firefighter dies

WASHINGTON TWP., Pa. - Family and friends are remembering a man who served his Lehigh County community for decades.

L. Jacob Merkel, a beloved part of the Friedens Fire Company, died Feb. 20 at the age of 87.

"He was one of the founders of the fire company when the fire company first started," said his son, Joel, who is now the fire chief.

Over the years he held different positions there including chief and president. Even up until the end of his life, Jacob was there.

"The weekend, Sunday before, he was here doing dishes, he was always working the kitchen," Joel told 69 News.

"He always used to say, 'I was put on this earth to take care of others' and that's what he did. He was involved with the fire company, food bank, lions club, church, he just wanted to help people," said Joel.

"Even the last couple of years when he had cancer and cancer was doing numbers on him, people would come up to him and say 'Jake how you doing?' 'Life couldn't be any better,'" Joel added about his father.

In 2006 Jacob was honored by several people for at least 60 years of service as a volunteer firefighter.

"Here's one from President Bush, that came from the White House," Joel said holding up one of the recognitions.

"Here's the governor, Ed Rendell, he gave us declarations, Charlie Dent, Julie Harhart," he added, looking at others.

The Merkel family says Jacob was the longest active living volunteer firefighter in the country.

"I'm proud of the fact that my father made that accomplishment and I know I'm not going to beat him, that's his record, I'm going to let him have that," said Joel.

But Joel and his son are carrying on the family tradition at the Friedens Fire Company.

Joel added, "He was a loving and caring person and he would give the shirt off his back to help anybody."

Jacob Merkel's funeral is Saturday, March 1 at 11 a.m. at Harding Funeral Home, 25-27 N. Second Street, Slatington, PA 18080. Calling hour is 10-11am at the funeral home. After the funeral there will be a firefighters last call service at the Friedens Fire Company.

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