Dale Peeler surprised with Order of the Guardian

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Dale Peeler

FAITH — Dale Peeler is an institution around Rowan County, serving for 45 years with the Faith Fire Department as well as most other volunteer departments in the county. He is also a tough one to surprise, so the fact that it was a secret that he was receiving the Order of the Guardian Sunday night is worthy of note.

Peeler was called to the state just before Too Much Sylvia took the state, and initially it seemed to be because it was his birthday.

When he called Peeler to the stage, initially Insurance Commissioner and state Fire Marshal Mike Causey asked the crowd to sing happy birthday. Then he brought out the award, and the look on Peeler’s face was priceless. He was truly surprised.

The award requires at least 40 years of exemplary service to the fire department, and Causey said he was “honored to be here to present this. Dale is a wonderful individual who has made numerous contributions to the field.”

Chief of Rowan County Emergency Services Allan Cress and Fire Division Chief Deborah Horne nominated Peeler for the award, and somehow managed to keep it a secret until the presentation Sunday night. But Horne said it wasn’t easy, because Dale is one who knows everything that is going on.

“Dale is just the go-to guy,” said Horne. “Whatever we need, he has always been there. But he also seems to always know what’s happening, so we had to work to keep this quiet.”

Cress has known Peeler since they were teenagers attending school together and agreed when Mike Zimmerman of Bostian Heights and China Grove fire departments said “Dale can work a crowd. If he doesn’t know you when he gets there, he will when he leaves.” Cress added that he had nothing but good things to say about Dale, including that he could teach a class in how to work a crowd, which in an emergency situation can be a Godsend.

Scott Gardner, Faith’s fire chief, was also on hand for the presentation, as was Dale’s son, Cameron, who is the fourth generation of the family to be a member of the fire department and who is currently the assistant fire chief in Faith.

“He’s been excited about this work his whole life,” said Cameron, who had to work with his mother to make sure Dale made it to the event without knowing why. Dale’s family was in full force at the event when he received the recognition.

“I am so honored,” Dale said, “but I want to say that the reason we have such a great community here in Faith is the volunteers we have. If you call 911 at 3 a.m, it’s a volunteer that is coming to help you.”

“We don’t give out too many of these, just a few each quarter,” said Causey. “To have invested more than 40 years is saying a lot these days, and the community is fortunate to have him.”