Chesterton Tribune

Town of Chesterton mourns Skip Highwood

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The Town of Chesterton was in mourning today, as the family, friends, colleagues, and brothers in uniform of the late Warren “Skip” Highwood laid him to rest.

Highwood died on Thursday at 66. He was the town’s first full-time firefighter, hired in 1972 after joining the Chesterton Fire Department as a volunteer in 1962, was named chief in 1990, and for 18 years served in that position until his retirement on Dec. 31, 2008.

The town hall closed at 9 a.m. today, to allow Clerk-Treasurer’s, Building Department, and Utility employees to attend Highwood’s funeral at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. All municipal meetings scheduled for today—including Town Council at 7 p.m. and Redevelopment Commission at 6:30 p.m.—have been postponed until Tuesday.

Every fire department in Porter County—and many outside Porter County—have provided manpower to assist the CFD with funeral arrangements, including firefighters in dress uniform to take their turn in the honor guard which flanked Highwood’s casket at the wake on Sunday at the CFD station. When the CFD went off line on Sunday, the Burns Harbor and Porter fire departments covered its calls; today the Liberty Township Volunteer and South Haven departments did the same. By mid-morning on Monday aerials from both the Portage and Valparasio fire departments had arrived in town to take their place in the funeral procession.

Meanwhile, officers from the Porter, Burns Harbor, and Ogden Dunes police departments, the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, the Indiana State Police, and the Norfolk Southern Police were assisting the CPD with traffic control and to represent their departments in the procession as well. North and South Calumet Road from St. Pat’s to Porter Ave. was scheduled to be closed for the procession late this morning, en route to Chesterton Cemetery, with a stop at the intersection of Broadway and South Calumet Road—the original location of the CFD station—for a Final Call from Porter County Dispatch.

On Sunday afternoon and well into the evening an estimated 2,000 people queued in line for as long as two hours to pay their respects to Highwood’s family at the wake, in a fire station filled with flowers and photographs of Highwood and trimmed in black and purple crepe. “Everybody here had some sort of personal relationship with Chief Highwood,” Interim Chief Mike Orlich told the Chesterton Tribune this morning. “It was never Warren. It was always Skip. Everyone knew Skip and loved him.”

“So many fire departments have been helping out,” Orlich added. “And not just from Porter County but from LaPorte and Lake counties. Michigan City firefighters were detailing Chief Highwood’s old Suburban. Firefighters from Kouts, Hebron, Boone Grove, Beverly Shores, Pine Township, Union Township were helping to scrub out and clean the station. Portage Fire Chief Bill Lundy has been incredibly helpful and really helped us to pull this together. We’ve never been on the receiving end of this kind of help. We’ve always been the ones to help out. And it’s just been so overwhelming.”

Highwood’s accomplishments over his 46 years in the fire service were numerous and prestigious: he was co-founder in 1991 of the Duneland School of Emergency Response and a co-founder as well of the Porter County Fire Chiefs Association; in 2002 he was voted State Firefighter of the Year by the Indiana Veterans of Foreign Wars; in 2006 Gov. Mitch Daniels made him a Sagamore of the Wabash; in 2007 he was honored with the Paul Harris Award by the Chesterton-Porter Rotary Club.

But to the people who knew him—and even those who didn’t—Highwood was always just Skip.


Posted 1/26/2009