NORTH STAR—Like his father, the late Verla Jr., Bill Roll is leaving a long-term legacy into an adventure called retirement.
However like his father, grandfather Verla Sr. and great-grandfather William, for whom he was named, Bill Roll is still continuing on as in another family traditioning auctioneering.
He now is going to continue working on his farm south of North Star where he harvests acres of general crops and will continue in his real estate business.
Yes, young Bill, who turned 72 recently, is retiring from the North Star Fire Department after 54 years of service, 24 years of which he was chief.
His retirement became effective the first day of this new year.
Bill was assistant chief, when he became chief upon the retirement of his father in 1997.
“The chief is voted on every year and they voted me in then,” Bill recalled.
Why is he leaving?
“Firefighting is a young man’s game,” replied Bill, who served as mayor of North Star in 1980 when he still lived in town. “The park was just getting started and we worked on developing that park.”
Assistant Fire Chief Mike McClurg, who joined the fire department in 2007, is Bill’s successor.
Seventeen firefighters serve with the department and there is room for more, according to the retiring chief.
North Star Fire Department has been located in two areas of town over the years. It was formerly located north of the traffic light in a building owned by the village, while the new fire department was built in 2014, one block south of the traffic light.
Bill, a 1969 graduate of Versailles High School, received his degree in education at Wilmington College in Ohio, and then got a teaching job after graduation in Plymouth, Ohio. He spent two years there as industrial arts teacher and football and wrestling coach.
He also served on the Plymouth Fire Department.
He returned to Versailles after he was hired by the Versailles Exempted Village School Board, where he taught industrial arts and physical education, in addition to coaching football a couple of years and then coaching wrestling up until his retirement in 2009.
When he came back to Darke County this last time, he had a wife in tow. He married the former Marcy Edgeson of Plymouth a month or two before the move back. They have been married 46 years.
She retired last January after working at EMIS in data management.
The retiring fire chief decided to come back to North Star, which he said was a fun town to grow up in. He should know. He’s lived here except for when he was in college and while teaching in Plymouth.
The Rolls are the parents of two children, Rebecca, who works in the corporate world in Chicago, and Zachary, who lives in Englewood and is a teacher at Northmont. There are two grandchildren, Zachary’s son Justin, 11, and Zachary’s daughter Danni, 7.
Bill said there have been a number of memorable fires over the years, but particularly standing out in his mind are the Darke County Home fire near Greenville in the 1970s and the Barga fire on Brock-Cosmos Road.
“I attended many of the fires, but it depended on where and when the calls came in,” he said. “The same goes with the firefighters. We could use more volunteers especially for daytime fires.”
Bill said the fire department has grown over the years.
“Not in membership but in equipment and improvements as well as the new firehouse,” he said. “When building the new building, we hired companies to take care of the big stuff, but the members were the general contractors and did such jobs as painting and labor they could handle. It took about a year.”
His father was one of the founding fathers of the North Star Community Fire Department.
Verla Jr. was chief from 1960 to 1997. He died in 2003 and got to see his son take over where he left off.
Verla was also village councilman, was former commander of the American Legion in town and a member of Greenville Veterans of Foreign Wars, plus worked at New Idea in Coldwater.
The retiring chief was the oldest of the five Roll children, who included, Tom of Sidney, Mike of St. Henry, Richard of Plymouth and daughter Judy of Celina.
The Roll brothers are all active in fire departments in their respective communities.
Judy is the only one who did not become a firefighter, but it’s not because she didn’t try.
“Judy passed her 36-hour firefighting course, but Dad never let her go to a fire,” Bill said.
The matriarch of the family, Virginia “Ginny” Roll. died in 2011.
“When your father is a fire chief, you go to fires,” he said. “I started in 1968 and then while home during college in the summer, I went on runs.”
How did Bill get started in auctioneering?
“I just picked up on the auctioneering,” Bill admitted. “All we had to do is take a test. There was no schooling then.”
He still does general estate, real estate and farm machinery auctions as well as some charity auctions in the area, including the pie auction at the Rossburg Ice Cream Social every June.
The North Star Community Fire Department, which puts on the annual Community Picnic in town each July, is a private corporation.
“Wabash Township and parts of York Township in Darke County and Marion Township in Mercer County contract with North Star for fire protection.
In addition to the picnic proceeds, the fire department applies for grants, and Bill usually writes those grants.
When in high school, he competed in wrestling matches as a senior when it was first offered.
He was named to the Ohio High School Wrestling Association’s Hall of Fame as a coach.
“We were very successful…even now,” he said. “They’re getting better every year.”
What is he going to miss in retirement?
“I am going to miss the guys but I will hang out sometimes. I won’t disappear,” said Bill, who is also a member of the local Knights of Columbus. “There is something to be said about serving a community. There are a lot of rewards when the outcomes are good. I have no regrets.”
An open house in Bill’s honor will be held on Feb. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church just up the street from the fire department, at 15 E Star Rd.