The Crete community lost a tremendous asset according to the many people he worked with in the city council as well as the Crete Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department on Aug. 3.
Charles “Chuck” Vyhnalek, 81, passed away and left bigshoes to fill in the community.
Vyhnalek graduated from Crete High School in 1956 and worked at Western Auto in Crete until he started working for the State of Nebraska Department of Roads.
He joined the CVFD in September of 1960 and served on the department for 59 years. He held the offices of secretary/treasurer, vice president and spent 30 years as president.
Vyhnalek was also active on the Crete City Council, serving from 1976 to 1988 and then from 2002 until he passed away.
He retired in 2000 as the division head of contracts and lettings at the Department of roads, but was still involved in the council and CVFD.
“He was always very proud of his prompt response times and he was consistently one of the top responders,” his obituary said.
Tod Allen, Crete fire chief, has been on the department for 31 years and took over as chief in 2013.
“When I got in the department in 2000, Chuck was the president. He was the president of the department 30 years. That in and of itself is amazing to be in that position for 30 years because there’s so many personalities and changes around that happen and he weathered a lot of storms I imagine. He did that for 30 years. That’s amazing,” Allen said.
Vyhnalek gave the department a vast knowledge of business experience.
“Chuck knew what made sense, and that is what we are going to be missing. He was a great asset for the fire department on the council. He was a wealth of knowledge,” Allen said.
Allen said that at department meetings the whole department would be discussing what was going on and what needed to be done, and Vyhnalek would be sitting in the corner eating his meal.
“He didn’t pipe up during the meetings too much, but we usually found each other after and I would ask him what he thought and he would give me his straight shooting, this is what I think should happen. That’s very pleasurable to have that, either a shoulder to cry on, or anear to talk into that would give me sound advice,” Allen said.
Vyhnalek was also a pump operator and state certified pump operation instructor. He trained many people on the pump operations not just on the Crete department but in other towns, as well.
After retirement, Allen said Vyhnalek was in the 90th percentile for making fire, rescue and ambulance calls.
“When he was in Crete he was 100% committed to making calls and doing what was right for the citizens,” Allen said.
Vyhnalek was an asset to the fire department because of his knowledge being on city council as well.
City administrator Tom Ourada was on the department for about 17 years where he worked with Vyhnalek before working with him on the city council.
“He was a huge asset to the community because he worked for the Department of Roads which is now Department of Transportation, so he had a tremendous understanding of construction and contracts and the federal aid process. He was very, very well versed and very helpful with that,” Ourada said
Vyhnalek was helpful with the submissions for federal aid money for the city of Crete. They received millions of dollars for federal highway improvements, Ourada said.
“Main Street, 13th Street, Hawthorne, Iris, all of that included federal aid money and the least best deal we got was 80% federal and 20% city and the best deal we got was 100% federal and he was very helpful in that,” Ourada said.
Vyhnalek was very highly regarded in the community, which was shown by the attendance of his funeral on Aug. 6.