By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
Spencer Teffeteller has spent the majority of his adult life fighting fires and saving lives. Whether it was as a member of the civiallian-contracted fire department at Pope Air Force Base or as the chief of the Angier Fire Department, Mr. Teffeteller has been dedicated to the role.
The majority of recognition he received came during his tenure on the Pope AFB Department, but it was his 32 years of service to Angier that was recognized recently when he received the Hometown Heroes Award from the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association and John Hiester Chevrolet.
“I think it was back with the first fire department I was on back in maybe 1972,” he said. “I was Fireman of the Year or something like that, that’s the last I remember.”
Mr. Teffeteller, who served as Angier’s fire chief from 1990 until he hung up his turnout gear in 2005, said winning this award got him completely off guard.
“When they started calling me about that award, I told my wife I’ve never gotten something that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling,” he said. “She said, ‘Well, you deserve it.”
Mr. Teffeteller got his start fighting fires in the 1960s when he joined the Pope department. While doing that he also joined the community volunteer departments where he and his wife, Susan, made their home.
It included stints with Lake Rim and Manchester departments. He served as deputy chief while at Manchester.
“I don’t know if it’s love or stupidity,” he said when asked why he decided to join the ranks. “All those days and nights we’d go out in the cold with it freezing, lightning and rain. There was something going on, I just don’t know what you’d call it.”
He said despite the negatives, it was something he found both rewarding and satisfying, that in addition to being something that was needed a great deal.
“I love to help people and back in the 1960s volunteers were all we had,” he said. “For the people it was volunteers.”
Mr. Teffeteller says he came to Angier after encouragement from a co-worker at Pope. His co-worker — Charles Nordan — was already the chief and urged him to come along.
“Charles said you need to go to Angier with me, get you a house and get everything leveled out,” he said. “So, I moved to Angier and the next thing you know I was the deputy fire chief.”
When Mr. Nordan decided it was time to hand over the reins to someone else, Mr. Teffeteller was selected.
“He called me in there on July the first in 1990 and he said we have decided to make you fire chief,” he said. “I said, ‘Do you think I can handle it, you’ve been here a long time.’ He said, ‘We’re going to put our trust in you and see what happens.’” From there Mr. Teffeteller says it was always a challenge to make sure the department had the funding and the facilities it needed to protect the citizens of Angier properly.
One of the first things he did was push for a fire tax to pay for the department — something that wasn’t as easy as he would have hoped.
At the time only Black River was paying such a tax and he saw the need to bring Angier into the funding formula.
“That fall the City of Angier started paying fire department taxes,” he said. “And I was right in the middle of it. I don’t know if I ever got out of it or not.”
Mr. Teffeteller’s predecessor had already been laying the groundwork. But it was the new chief that made it a reality.
“He already had it started,” Mr. Teffeteller said. “I just took it over.”
What came next is what Mr. Teffeteller considers to be one of the highlights of his time as chief, the creation of the new fire station, one that was modern and could accommodate all of the equipment needed for the department to carry out its duties.
It had been his predecessor’s dream to see the station where it sits now nestled along Broad Street. But the resistance to the idea was always in place.
When first looking at the location, residents were concerned about having the fire station right in their backyard. Mr. Teffeteller made it his focus to see to it the station would be built and despite limited funding, the building opened as the new home of the Angier-Black River Fire Department in 1994.
“After they found out what we were going to build, they came and apologized,” he said. “They thought we were going to build another tin building.”
The old station had been built from tin and was anything but esthetically pleasing and modern. Neighbors had feared the new building would be made of the same materials and wouldn’t be as solid and efficient as the new building ended up when it was completed.
“It was a real nice building and they found out it was all brick,” he said.
Now Mr. Teffeteller spends his time at home or at the golf course when the weather permits. And he will always have the memories of the years — and his latest accolades — to help him keep it all in perspective and remind him of the good job he did.