LANSING | For the past three years, the Rev. Ildefonso Torres, of New Hope Church, has served as chaplain for the Lansing Fire Department, offering his guidance to firefighters when they were hurt, while also taking time to check up on them at other moments.
“He was a regular presence at our Wednesday drill sessions,” said Fire Chief Dan Gregorovic. “He’d show up at the stations to reach out to the firefighters and let them know he was concerned about them.”
But that won’t be the case for much longer. Torres, pastor of the church at 3642 Lake St. who has served as Fire Department chaplain since 2010, is retiring from both posts.
His final day of work will be Friday. Members of the New Hope congregation plan to have a celebration for Torres that day, while the Fire Department will have its own ceremony to pay tribute to Torres shortly thereafter, Gregorovic said.
Vivian Payne, an administrative assistant to Village President Norm Abbott, said officials likely will present Torres with a plaque at that time.
“We wanted to honor him at the (village) board meeting (on Tuesday), but he couldn’t come because he was on business all week in Grand Rapids (Mich.),” Payne said.
Torres had been pastor at the Lansing-based church for two years before taking on the non-salaried Fire Department chaplain position. From time to time, he also would deliver the opening prayer at Lansing Village Board meetings.
Ministering to firefighters and emergency-crew workers was nothing new for Torres, who previously had been chaplain for the South Holland Fire Department.
Gregorovic said Torres took his links with firefighters to a personal level and not limited to just the job.
“He’d stop in my office all the time to check in,” the chief said. “He had a really special bond with the guys that went beyond the job.
“He was a very, very good guy, and he’s going to be missed,” Gregorovic said.
Torres was not available to talk on Friday.
Torres has told The Times he thought his Latino ethnic origins and fluency in Spanish benefited the Fire Department by helping them communicate to more people in a village whose population is changing.
Torres filled a position that had been vacant for five years. The previous chaplain, Richard Van Dyke, held the post for 13 years before leaving to become a pastor in Pontiac, Ill.
But Gregorovic said he does not expect the chaplain’s post to remain open for anywhere near as long.
He said he already has started talks with Abbott about finding a replacement, which could occur sometime this summer.
“It will be filled soon,” he said.