HARTLEY, Iowa -- As October, the month dubbed Fire Prevention Month, draws to a close, it might be appropriate to look back on the lives of a couple of volunteer firefighters in Hartley, Jerry Roth and Maurice "Red" Getting.
Both men, fantastic friends for 61 years and key members of their local fire department for a quarter-century, died on the same day, Sept. 30, mere hours before Fire Prevention Month began.
Getting died at 12:30 a.m. at the Community Memorial Health Center in Hartley. As officials took his body from the facility, Roth, his longtime friend, sat near the nurse's station. He'd been up most of the night. He died later that day.
Roth's daughter, Jeri Wescott, of Hartley, said, "My story is that as they wheeled Red out, he elbowed Dad as if to say, 'Let's go join the girls.'"
The "girls" in this case are the wives of the two men: Suzanne "Suzie" Getting and Lois Roth, incredibly close friends themselves, women who died within six months of one another in 2016.
Red Getting was 83 when he died; Jerry Roth, 87. Their lives were celebrated in funerals three days apart that week at United Methodist Church at Hartley. Members of both families joined residents of Hartley and nearby Sanborn in these funerals.
"They'd known each other since Red moved to town," said Greg Getting, of Hartley. "My dad had just graduated from Morningside College and came to Hartley to work with his dad, Getting Trucking, or Getting Livestock."
Red Getting, his obituary read, had been raised at Sanborn and graduated from Sanborn High School in 1953. He excelled in football at Morningside, earning all-conference honors for the Chiefs before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jerry Roth graduated from Hartley High School in 1951 and ended up joining Lois in establishing Roth TV and Appliance in Sanborn after learning much about the electronics trade at Hartley Electric. He would spend the rest of his life focusing on sales and service of household appliances and entertainment electronics.
And while Getting retired 15 years ago, Roth worked until the day he entered Community Memorial Health Center.
The two weren't always working, of course. They enjoyed being with their wives and other couples on the golf course or in a game of cards. Suzie Getting, their children said, ventured over to the Roth home every Tuesday evening as Red played men's league at Meadow Brook Country Club just south of Hartley. She continued her Tuesday evening visits as the weather turned, meaning that Red substituted golf league on Tuesday nights with a card game at the American Legion.
Later in their lives, when the Gettings traveled south to winter at Horseshoe Bend, Texas, Suzie Getting and Lois Roth would FaceTime with each other on their iPads, doing so for their own brand of a Tuesday happy hour as Red and Jerry sounded off in the background.
Both couples, who wed five years apart, had three children, all of whom attended school in Hartley.
Other close friends included Gene and Donna Sorenson and Wally and Donna Towne. Of the eight, Red and Jerry were the remaining survivors.
They were also linked in their service with the Hartley Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. The two men didn't talk much about it, but a story circulated and came out during a funeral service about their daring work in extinguishing a fire at tiny Melvin, Iowa, where propane tanks burned with some ferocity.
"Hartley was called to assist and I remember my dad saying that he and Jerry arrived and somehow got a valve shut off that helped put out the fire," said Greg Getting, who also served as a firefighter there. "He said, 'We tried something stupid and it worked.'"
Jerry's son, Rod Roth, yet another former Hartley firefighter, noted how he had heard that, for several years, it was Jerry Roth, Red Getting and Duane Kolpin who were often the first to enter burning homes in town.
"Both have a firefighter memorial plaque for their graves," said Greg Getting of a pair of men buried at Pleasant View Cemetery in town.
Lastly, Red Getting had 25 years of service with the Hartley Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and was set to retire from the unit. Rather than close the books, he stayed on until Roth reached the quarter-century mark with his service and the two of them retired from the department together.
On Sept. 30, the tables turned, in a way. Getting died in the dark of night, his body passing his friend, Roth, who sat near the nurse's station. Maybe he "nudged" his buddy on the way out the door. Jeri Wescott smiled and said she'd like to think so. "That's my story," she said.
Jerry Roth died shortly after 11 a.m., just hours after one of his best buddies.