VFW awards honors to public servants at banquet

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, April 6, 2014

JANESVILLE—Veterans of Foreign Wars Kienow-Hilt Post 1621 and its ladies auxiliary honored public servants at an annual awards banquet Saturday night.

Awards were given to these Janesville residents:

Firefighter of the Year: Catherine Erdman, who joined the Janesville Fire Department in 2007. She is a driver/operator as well as a firefighter and emergency medical technician.

Erdman manages the department's Explorer Pot 555 and is committed to fire prevention education. She works on updates to the department's fire prevention education program and provides public information on fire safety.

Last year, Erdman traveled to Mexico as part of a mission trip to help train firefighters, and she recently helped raise money for childhood cancer research.

In addition to her fire and EMS education, Erdman has a bachelor's degree in Spanish, cultural and ethnic studies and a master's degree in international commerce and policy from Valparaiso University.

Paramedic of the Year: Joshua Uecker was hired by the Janesville Fire Department in 2006. He is a firefighter, paramedic, rescue diver, hazardous materials response team member and paramedic preceptor.

Uecker is involved in the department's EMS committee and is working to develop ways to improve efficiencies with reports. He was involved in researching and evaluating department staffing software. In addition, Uecker helped on the department's uniform committee to standardize the department uniform and expedite ordering.

Uecker is a certified fire officer, has training in technical rescue and an associate degree in fire science from Columbia Southern University.

Correctional Officer of the Year: Larry deLorimier was hired by the Rock County Sheriff's Office in 2008 when he also graduated from jail training at Blackhawk Technical College.

He has worked in all areas of the jail and is now assigned to the community corrections bureau. He supervises inmates in the Workender Program, taking inmate crews into the community to perform community service projects.

Deputy of the Year: Luke DuCharme, who was hired by the Rock County Sheriff's Office as a correctional officer in 2005 and graduated from jail training at Blackhawk Technical College in 2006. He was promoted to deputy in 2007 and graduated from the Law Enforcement Academy that same year.

DuCharme is a team leader on the mobile field force team, which is trained in controlling large crowds or crowds that could erupt into a riot, and the assistant commander for the sheriff's office honor guard team. He also instructs other deputies and officers from other agencies on tactics to identify drug trafficking and illegal activity as part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. DuCharme is a field-training officer for training recruit patrol deputies.

Police Officer of the Year:  Shane Punzel, who joined the Janesville Police Department in 1996 and works first shift patrol.

He is a member of the department SWAT team and is a firearms instructor.

Punzel is volunteers for additional assignments. When he's not answering patrol calls, he fills his shift by looking for wanted people or conducting follow-up investigations.

Lifetime membership in the VFW National Home for Children: VFW Post 1621 Commander Tom Heath, Janesville, and Cheryl Eber, Janesville, who is an auxiliary member. Eber helps with the bingo lunch, children's Christmas party, decorating the Post for the holidays, with raffles for the Cootie breakfast and decorating cookies for different holidays, homeless shelters, nursing homes and veterans.

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