NEW PALESTINE — From the time he was a teenager at New Palestine High School, class of 1980, Terry Hulen volunteered with his local fire department.
Hulen, 56, Greenfield, always wanted to be a firefighter, he said.
Some 38 years later, Hulen is calling it quits, retiring after his lifelong dream of community service flourished into nearly four decades with the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department.
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Hulen, a battalion chief, was a volunteer firefighter for Sugar Creek for nine years before becoming a full-time firefighter for the past 28 years. He recently made the tough decision — it was time for him to move on.
“It’s a little scary, but I think it’s time for a change,” Hulen said. “What I tell everybody is, ‘I’m gonna miss the guys, but not the job.’”
John Begovich, fire chief, hates losing Hulen, who will take 38 years of firefighting leadership and experience out the door.
“There are a lot of things you can learn in training and in books, but unfortunately a lot of what you learn as a firefighter comes from experience,” Begovich said.
Begovich already has reached out to Hulen to work part-time in the future or get involved with firefighting training programs.
While Hulen worked a short stint with the Greenfield Fire Department, he’s spent the vast majority of his time working for Sugar Creek Township as a firefighter/EMT and battalion chief.
Hulen has seen the firefighting service change for the better throughout the years, he said and chuckled thinking back to the old days, when firefighters were considered weak if they used oxygen.
“Now days, it’s so different with so many synthetic materials that can be hazardous when they burn, if you don’t use oxygen you’re in big trouble,” Hulen said.
While Hulen has a gruff exterior, his wife, Angela Hulen, said he’s a teddy bear in disguise and has the biggest heart.
Hulen and his wife, who is a pediatric nurse, are foster parents for special needs children.
They’re hoping to adopt two girls they currently care for.
They already have three grown children and several grandchildren, but Hulen said they’ve been empty nesters for several years and know there are still many children in need of loving homes.
The couple has fostered close to 40 children throughout the years and his wife said they felt now, with Hulen retiring, is the time to step up and do more with kids, despite their previous retirement plans.
Hulen was thinking of buying a motorcycle, moving with his wife south, going on more cruises and just taking it easy, but in true Hulen fashion, he’s putting the needs of their foster children first, his wife said.
They’re currently waiting to hear on the adoptions before making any concrete plans about the future.
“With the girls, we can still do all the things in retirement we want to do, but in a different way,” Angela Hulen said.
Hulen is looking forward to being a full time dad again, he said and is hopeful the adoptions come through.
He admits, those in public service, whether a firefighter or police officer sacrifice a great deal in their chosen professions.
They are the first responders, trained officials who have to see death and heartache up close and personal, sometimes on a daily basis and it takes a toll.
“Anytime people call you, they are in crisis and need help,” Hulen said. “It’s the hardest part of the job.”