County Honors 1st Fire Chief With Boat

Margaret Woltz breaks a bottle of bubbly on the fire boat named for her husband, a lifelong firefighter who became the county's first chief.
Margaret Woltz breaks a bottle of bubbly on the fire boat named for her husband, a lifelong firefighter who became the county's first chief. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008

The ominous clouds and brief downpour that swept through Oxon Hill on a morning last week did not dampen the mood at the christening of the Lawrence Woltz -- Prince George's County Fire Department Boat #858 -- at the pier at National Harbor.

About 100 people watched Margaret Woltz, widow of Lawrence Woltz, crack a bottle of bubbly against the aluminum hull of the 36-foot, high-speed vessel during the launch ceremony.

"I christen thee the Lawrence Woltz," she said. "May God grant you fair winds and following seas."

Lawrence Woltz was appointed the county's first fire chief in 1970 and served for five years. After his retirement, he worked for nearly 20 years as a community fire educator, advising hospitals, nursing homes and fraternity houses about evacuation and emergency plans.

"He always said if he could save one life, it was well worth it," Margaret Woltz said.

Her husband died in June 2003. He was 84.

Margaret Woltz, 87, said he devoted his life to the fire department.

"He loved it, and he loved the county," said Woltz, who lives in College Park. She was surrounded by the couple's children and grandchildren at the event. "It was nice for [county officials] to remember, and now my grandchildren and great-grandchildren can see what their grandfather did."

After the July 22 ceremony, memories of her husband flooded Woltz's mind.

The two met at the Bladensburg Fire Department, where Lawrence Woltz was a volunteer.

Margaret Woltz distinctly remembers her father being adamantly opposed to her dating a fireman. Her father was a fireman, she said, and he didn't like how other firemen talked about the women they dated.

So Margaret Woltz joined the Ladies Auxiliary, a group in which she is still active. During a trip to Ocean City for a state convention, she ran into Woltz at a dance. They shared a turn around the floor. He wasn't a very good dancer, she said. A year later, they married.

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