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Al Kochenderfer

Al Kochenderfer, pictured here in a green "event staff" shirt, was honored for 43 years as a EMT and ambulance driver for the Scenic Valley Emergency Medical Service during the annual Independence Day parade in Buffalo City Thursday.

As float after float streamed down 10th Street during Buffalo City’s annual Independence Day parade Thursday, the crowd cheered in celebration of not only the nation’s birthday but that of an unsung hero.

Sitting high over the crowd, Al Kochenderfer waved from his perch on the Scenic Valley Emergency Medical Service float.

The 73-year-old Vietnam vet and retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel has spent his entire life in service to others, including more than four decades as an EMT.

“I don’t know anybody who has put their heart and soul into it as much as Al has,” said Carol Burmeister, who has worked by Kochenderfer’s side for the last 23 years.

But as far as Kochenderfer is concerned, he was just doing what needed to be done and it’s the other dozen EMTs, drivers and team members who really deserve the recognition.

“We as human beings have a certain responsibility to our fellow human beings,” he said.

Kochenderfer’s service has earned him more than his community’s respect.

In November, the Wisconsin EMS Association will award Kochenderfer a lifetime achievement award for his work as an EMT.

“He’s someone who really deserved some recognition,” said Greg Jencin of Scenic Valley EMS. “Al put the capital V in the word volunteer.”

And even after 43 years with the ambulance service, Kochenderfer has no intention of giving it up.

And with two new knees and a new shoulder he says he’s more mobile than ever.

“I still enjoy doing runs,” he said. “I’m a little slower getting going at night, but I’ve always worn coveralls and I can still slip in my boots and coveralls and drive the two miles before most of our people get to the ambulance garage.”

Kochenderfer said while he doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, he may start spending a few months wintering down south.

“I think I can do another 10 months out of the year for an indeterminate period of time,” he said.

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Tobias Mann covers crime and government in Winona County. He can be reached at 507-453-3522 or at tobias.mann@winonadailynews.com

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