“Who is the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department?” was a very logical question queried by Paul Laun’s mother when he suggested making a sizable donation to them. Especially since she didn’t live on Kent Island! And yet, that’s exactly what Eleanor Laun did. According to Paul, who does live on Kent Island, “I just explained how volunteer fire departments work. Mom was use to the paid departments in Baltimore but could relate to people stepping up to give of their time out of the goodness of their hearts to serve their fellow man.”
You see, Mrs. Laun served as a combat nurse in North Africa, Italy and France during World War II. She understood 12 to 18 hour shifts, or working double shifts. Granted, she was paid. Paid a whole $35 a month to sleep on the ground in North Africa for several nights until tents were set up, tend to sick or wounded soldiers as bombs went off around them in Italy, or work the evacuation hospitals situated in the combat zone which made it possible to accept casualties right from the front line when she served in France.
Philanthropic generosity goes back several generations in the Laun family and every year they give a donation typically given to either a church or hospital. A year and a half ago, when Eleanor was age 93, Paul was discovering new information about his mother’s service in World War II when he got his yearly mail out from the fire department. “I connected the two in my mind and suggested it to the family,” explained Paul. Not only did he get the blessing from his mother, but his six brothers and two sisters were also on board.
The donation to the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department was put towards the Capital Campaign for the station which opened its doors at the end of 2007. Eleanor Laun passed away on January 10th of this year. Outside of the SCBA Room at the station now hangs a plaque dedicated in her memory to honor her generous life of service to others.
Recently, seven of the nine Laun children made a trip to the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department to see that plaque and remember their mother. They told stories of a patient woman (which is a great attribute when you have nine children), who was always a lady and never spoke a bad or harsh word. When the possibility of having so many children and never speaking a harsh word was questioned (seems a bit hard to believe, yes?) they all agreed…their mother handled life with a calmness and a purpose. The one trait she did not tolerate was complaining which they attributed to her time served in the war which gave her the gift of being able to distinguish real problems from minor inconveniences. They also marveled at her zest for life. The story is told of Mrs. Laun visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time when she was in her 80’s. Eleanor’s son in law, Bill Duncan, pointed out that the mules were starting to leave and told her she better run if she wanted to catch a ride. According to Bill, “She took off! She didn’t want to miss a thing! I was honestly sorry I had joked with her because I thought she might fall, but she didn’t.”
While Mrs. Laun’s time of service is one of great pride to her children, it represents only three years in her life of 94. Raising nine children who want to give back to their community, who strive to have her zest for life, and model her patience and kindness; these are the things for which every mother strives and is to be celebrated. Cheif Buddy Thomas remarked that Mrs. Laun “had all the qualities we look for in our members. She would have been a good one!” According to KIVFD President Jody Schulz, “the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department is proud to have a room dedicated in her honor and will do their very best to be worthy stewards of her name and legacy.”
In photo: The Laun family consisting of 7 of the 9 siblings with their spouses and children joined by KIVFD Cheif Buddy Thomas and President Jody Schulz.