MENASHA- Special recognition for friends and family of a man who met his untimely death on Lake Winnebago: The tragedy on the ice spurred an effort to help Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue start its own dive team.
It was a frantic scene on Lake Winnebago off Waverly Beach.
On February 19, 2011, Bruce Peterson’s truck went through the ice.
Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue responded, but had no dive team to go in after the 58-year-old.
Peterson didn’t make it out alive.
“We miss him dearly,” said Jeanne Schiesser, Peterson’s sister.
Shortly after the tragic drowning, Neenah-Menasha firefighters decided to raise funds for a dive team.
Those close to Peterson took the lead, and had great success raising most of the money.
Monday night, city officials took note of those efforts.
The mayor and council officially presented them with a proclamation.
“Thanks will never be able to convey how we feel with what they did. they really are the heroes in putting this together,” said Assistant Fire Chief Mike Sippin.
Those who were on the scene the day of Peterson’s death say his family and friends have provided the department with a wonderful gift.
One that allows it to be more prepared.
“We could see the hole where the truck had gone down and we knew that there was really nothing we could do. It was a pretty helpless and empty feeling,” said Firefighter Troy Janz.
It took a frenzy of fundraisers, but the group quickly raised 60 thousand dollars towards the 90 thousand the department needed.
“Right away, everybody said absolutely. We’ll do what we can to help so no one else loses a loved one,” said Diane Kiesow, Peterson’s partner.
“I wanted to do something to try to make some sense of the loss that we had,” said Debbie Becklund, Peterson’s friend.
By late 2011, enough was raised to purchase equipment and train divers. The team is now in service.
Peterson’s sister says she’s proud of the work accomplished, and feels so would her brother.
“He would be proud, but he wouldn’t like all the hoo-ha at all,” said Scheisser.
But by turning a tragedy into a community asset, Peterson’s loved ones are making a difference.
“It’s been a long journey, but very fulfilling,” said Becklund.
“Even if we can save one person, it’s all worth it because anyone that needs help, we can help them now,” said Kiesow.
Donations continue to be accepted to help defray maintenance and future training costs.