A special graduation for firefighter families

Eight Rush City firefighters have more reason than one in hoping for a quiet Sunday, June 2, when nine of their own children will graduate from high school.

Eight members of the Rush City Fire Department will be supporting nine of their children at high school graduation ceremonies this year. Pictured, with fathers in front of their sons/daughters: Matt Nelson with father Chris Nelson; Brooklyn Olson with Nic Malchow; Mitchell Mallinger; Isaiah Morris with Tim Morris; Matt Mallinger with Mel Mallinger; Linzy Potter with Keith Potter; Kayla Forcier with Darrin Forcier; and Dalton Folkema with Joey Folkema. Not pictured are Justin Bye and father Curt Bye. Photos by Jon Tatting

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE) Eight members of the Rush City Fire Department will be supporting nine of their children at high school graduation ceremonies this year. Pictured, with fathers in front of their sons/daughters: Matt Nelson with father Chris Nelson; Brooklyn Olson with Nic Malchow; Mitchell Mallinger; Isaiah Morris with Tim Morris; Matt Mallinger with Mel Mallinger; Linzy Potter with Keith Potter; Kayla Forcier with Darrin Forcier; and Dalton Folkema with Joey Folkema. Not pictured are Justin Bye and father Curt Bye. Photos by Jon Tatting

It could be called an extended family celebration, as these firefighting dads and sons and daughters have a unique bond that could very well stand the test of time. Along with dedicated mothers, these families have counted on one another through the good times and bad. They have endured many suppers, evenings and special occasions with dad out on a fire call.

The Rush City High School graduation ceremony is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, June 2 inside the school’s gymnasium. It’s indeed a big day for every graduate, but it also reflects an accomplishment for these volunteer firefighter families whose support of one another undoubtedly had an impact.

Rush City senior Dalton Folkema is the son of 14-year firefighter Joey Folkema. After graduation, Dalton plans to attend North Dakota State University.

Also graduating from Rush City are Kayla Forcier, daughter of 17-year firefighter Darrin Forcier, who is anticipating Bemidji State University; Isaiah Morris, son of 14-year firefighter Tim Morris, who plans to attend Itasca Community College; and Linzy Potter, daughter of 17-year Rush City firefighter Keith Potter, who is eyeing Empire Beauty School.

“It’s pretty cool that we’re graduating together, since we’ve pretty much all been together since preschool,” Kayla Forcier said. “We’ll likely stay in touch after high school.”

Matt and Mitchell Mallinger, whose father is nine-year firefighter Mel Mallinger, will graduate from Rush City High School, though these twin brothers have separate destinations in mind. While Matt plans to attend St. Cloud State University, Mitchell is heading to the University of North Dakota.

Rush City's network of firefighting dads watched out for each other's families through the years. With nine of their children graduating from high school this year, it marks a special accomplishment for all.

Rush City’s network of firefighting dads watched out for each other’s families through the years. With nine of their children graduating from high school this year, it marks a special accomplishment for all.

“When I was younger, it was always cool riding in the fire trucks during parades and other community events,” Matt Mallinger said. “Sometimes we were stuck at the fire hall while our dads were out on a call. It is a unique bond we have. We definitely can’t get away with much, with our families all knowing each other’s cell phone numbers. Our dads would warn us not to swerve if there’s a deer in the road or wear your seat belt. They didn’t want what they see (on the job) happen to us. It’s something other kids may not understand.”

The fire department will be represented at neighboring high school graduation ceremonies and parties, as well.

Brooklyn Olson, daughter of nine-year Rush City firefighter Nic Malchow, will graduate from Pine City High School and looks to Century College as her next chapter. With 17 years on the fire department, Capt. Chris Nelson will see his son, Matt Nelson, graduate from Willow River/Moose Lake, with a future outlook involving the DNR.

“It’s been fun, an experience,” Matt Nelson said. “I’ve been helping my dad out since I was younger. I’d help fill the trucks with water, clean up, roll hose, do anything I was asked of. I spent more time (at the fire hall) than anywhere else, and it does feel like a family.”

The soon-to-be high school graduates fondly remember riding with their fathers in their Rush City fire trucks during summer parades. File photo

The soon-to-be high school graduates fondly remember riding with their fathers in their Rush City fire trucks during summer parades. File photo

That leaves Curt Bye, who’s been with Rush City Fire for 17 years. He will support his son, Justin Bye, as he receives his diploma on stage at Chisago Lakes High School. While Justin began his schooling in Rush City, he moved onto Chisago Lakes in eighth grade. He’s planning on attending the University of Wisconsin-Superior to study criminology with plans of someday working for the state highway patrol.

“There’s always been an extra set of eyes, so the kids can’t mess around in town with the network we have,” smiled firefighting dad Mel Mallinger. “We call each other, we help each other out, we share time together — whether it’s car pooling, going to football games or social outings. The kids all planned different graduation parties, so they could attend each other’s.”

Thank you, firefighters, and best of luck to the graduates.

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