For Hartford Fire Chief Charles A. Teale Sr., it was unfinished business, a matter of duty and responsibility. There was no monument to the 168 people who died in the horrible Hartford circus fire of July 6, 1944. He knew there needed to be a memorial before the generation that remembered the state's worst fire passed on.
Mr. Teale was co-chairman of the committee that raised $125,000 and dedicated the beautiful memorial on the 61st anniversary of the fire in 2005.
His feel for the city and its history, along with his ability to communicate and get the job done, made Mr. Teale an outstanding fire chief. He has announced his retirement; he will leave early next year after 28 years in the department and nearly 10 as chief. He will be dearly missed.
Mr. Teale's is a remarkable personal story. It is hard to look at this tall, authoritative, articulate leader and believe that he was a dropout who left school at 14. But thanks to the guidance of the great Hartford educator Walter "Doc" Hurley, Mr. Teale got back on the right path. He earned his GED, then an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree and a master's.
He was going to get his doctorate when he was named chief in 2000, so he put the degree off. Following the tumultuous tenure of controversial Chief Robert Dobson, Mr. Teale restored order and stability to the department. He has been a fair, no-nonsense, impartial administrator in what is sometimes a rough-and-tumble managerial environment. His skill at explaining the various efforts in progress at a fire scene has a calming and reassuring effect.
Mr. Teale understood that the department is evolving away from just fighting fires and toward such things as emergency medical response and the handling of hazardous materials and other environmental duties. He's pushed for higher education and professional standards, which helped maintain the department's status as one of only 41 Class 1 fire departments out of 38,000 departments in the country.
Mr. Teale plans to return to graduate school and become a psychologist to help young men move to adulthood more smoothly than he did. It's a marvelous goal and we wish him well.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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