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Family shares, cares for community

WASHINGTON TWP., Montgomery County - Emergency care is a family affair at the Gaul household in Washington Twp.

Before becoming an emergency room nurse at Kettering Hospital when her children were little, Sharon Gaul served as a firefighter/paramedic - five years with the Sugarcreek-Bellbrook Fire Department, then 15 years with the Washington Twp. Fire Department.

In the late '70s, the Washington Twp. Fire Department called for mutual aid from Bellbrook to help fight a huge horse-barn fire off Paragon Road in which "a lot of (horses) were killed," Gaul said. She came with Bellbrook's tanker.

It was a fateful run. At the fire she met her future husband Mark Gaul, a Washington Twp. firefighter, who's now a partpaid volunteer captain at Washington Twp. Fire Station 43 on Social Row Road and Ohio 48.

"Afterwards you just stand around and talk and that's how we met," she said. They'll be married 25 years Sept. 11.

Mark Gaul, who's also a parttime in-house emergency medical technician for the township, is the younger brother of Bill Gaul, newly appointed Washington Twp. fire chief.

A tool-and-die maker by trade, "at night I run fires," Mark Gaul said. "Every sixth day I run medic. I go in at 6 p.m. for the medic and spend the night at the station. At 6 a.m. I go in to work at my fulltime job. You get sleep when you can. It's a commitment you make to serve the community."

While a student at Centerville High School, "the fire department came looking for volunteers," he said. "Living off Social Row Road we always saw the bad accidents (at Ohio 48). We heard the squeal of tires and would watch the medics come in and do their thing. We also had a relative up north who was (fire) chief for 30 to 35 years for a small department in Amish country. That's where the interest came."

Gaul family volunteering has spanned the generations, he said. When his mother passed away in 1998, his father, William, now 77, became a volunteer messenger for the fire department for several years.

His son Josh, 22, a part-paid volunteer firefighter at Fire Station 43 for the past five years, grew up with a fire scanner in his room, but having a firefighter dad was hard, Josh Gaul said. At night when other dads would be home, "he would kiss us and say, 'I've got to go.' We'd tell him to be careful."

Now president of the Washington Twp. Firefighter's Association, Josh Gaul was in charge of this year's ice cream social. He mucks manure in a local horse barn in exchange for boarding his horse there and runs his own landscaping firm from the family home, firefighting on the side.

"The hardest part is on my girlfriend," as dates and eating out are often interrupted by fire calls, he said.

When Josh was a 1-year-old and his brother Travis, who prefers business to fire fighting, was a newborn, their mom decided to go to nursing school. As a nurse, you're involved in "more comprehensive care of the patient," she said.

Her grandmother was a nurse at St. Elizabeth Hospital, but "it was the TV show "Emergency" back in the '70s that started me wanting to be a paramedic," she said.

"I started out as a volunteer," Mark Gaul said. "I can't stress enough that the volunteers are a big part of the equation. There are a lot of good people out there."

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