Captain Eric T. Kohlbauer served on Freeport Rural Fire Department for 29 years and 11 months. He had just attained the rank of captain the day before his death.
He was a member of Silver Creek Reformed Church in German Valley, Illinois, where he had held positions as Sunday school superintendent, deacon, junior high school youth sponsor, and sang in the church choir.
He was one of the charter members of the Stephenson County Antique Engine Club; he was only five years old at the time the club was formed. He was also an active member of the Forreston FFA Alumni Association, where he supervised the restoration of several antique tractors. Two of these tractors were chosen as being in the Top 10 in the nation for the restoration team, which consisted of both of his sons and five other students. Because his father passed when Eric was in his early teens, he spent many hours out in the garden tending flowers with his mother, which became one of his favorite pastimes. He also enjoyed four-wheeling with his family and friends, reading, bonfires, and watching sunsets from Florida’s Gulf beaches.
Eric was employed by the Stephenson County Sheriff’s Department as a maintenance supervisor for thirteen years.
His parents were George “Tom” and Mary Ellen Kohlbauer. He married Cathy (Fricke) on February 14, 1987. They have two sons, Grant and Garrett, who are both members of Freeport Rural Fire Department. Eric has two brothers, Mike and Don, and two sisters, Clare and Diane.
Eric’s father was a member of Freeport Rural Fire Department until his death in 1976. Eric started with the Department in 1986. He was proud that his son, Garrett, became a member in 2014, and they were able to serve together for a time. Grant has now joined since Eric’s death. We know that Eric is looking down with pride as both of his sons carry on the family tradition of firefighting.
Eric was a kind man with a gentle spirit who would do anything to help others. His smile would brighten up a room.
Eric was honored to serve with all of the men and women of Freeport Rural and sincerely loved being of service to his community.