Retiring Norwich Township Battalion Chief John King didn't help win the Super Bowl or get a green jacket at the Augusta National Golf Club, but he is going to Disney World.
Within 12 hours of sharing handshakes and hugs from current and former colleagues at the fire station, and sharing a few emotional moments at his July 9 retirement reception, King, his wife, Kathy, and three grandchildren hit the road for Florida.
King retired July 9 after more than 22 years of service to the Norwich Township Fire Department and 34 years as a firefighter.
"It's OK, it's time," Kathy King, his wife of 39 years, told her husband as he grew silent when the moment came to thank the reception room full of present and past firefighters.
Mrs. King reminded him of a song played at their wedding, the Carpenters' We've Only Just Begun, and how, nearly four decades later, the song is just as meaningful in describing the next step in their lives together.
"I never intended to be a firefighter," said King, 62, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting from Franklin University.
King's younger brother, Jim, persuaded him to join as a volunteer firefighter at Jefferson Township in 1979.
Four years later, King was among the first full-time firefighters for Jefferson Township, leaving his job as an office manager at an equipment company.
After working two years at Jefferson Township, King was a firefighter for six years at Perry Township. While a firefighter at Perry Township, King, who by then had also become a medic, worked at Doctors Hospital treating emergency-room patients.
King joined the Norwich Township Fire Department July 1, 1991, and continued working at Doctors Hospital until 1997.
"I saw a lot of opportunity (at Norwich Township) and made the change," he said.
King was promoted to lieutenant in 1999, to captain in 2002 and to battalion chief in 2012.
"I've worked with 10 chiefs (at three departments) and learned that being a firefighter is all about relationships and teamwork," King said. "It's not about any individual, but like a football team, we all work together."
Those teammates include his nephew, James Dustin King, whose father, Jim, is a firefighter for Washington Township.
"It's also a passion, and what sets it apart from other kinds of (careers)," King said.
Norwich Township Fire Chief Bob Kaufman presented King with his helmet mounted on a plaque and other retirement gifts.
"We're losing a lot of experience," Kaufman said.
Trustee Chuck Buck said he hopes others learn from King's example.
"John has been special to all of us (and) I hope others emulate his work ethic," Buck said.
In addition to a monetary gift, Norwich Township personnel also pulled strings to purchase King an 18-hole round of golf for two at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin.
Firefighter Brain Gatley, while presenting it on behalf of Norwich Township Firefighters Local No. 1723, said it was a kind of gift "that won't need dusted."
Other firefighters welcomed him to "Unit 4," a firefighters' reference to retirement. The firefighters work 24-hour shifts followed by 48 hours off, thus creating the need for three regular units.
Aside from his immediate trip to Disney World with his wife and grandchildren, King said, he wants to work on home-improvement projects at his house and his son's house.
He and Kathy live in Plain City. They have two adult children, Elizabeth and Nathan, and three grandchildren.