Former Emergency Services Director Remembered
January 10, 2022 by Rose Nemunaitis

When Roger Peterson was hired as Dale Wedge’s deputy director for Geauga County Emergency Services, Wedge documented important day-to-day decisions, highlighting his love for the county and ensuring Peterson knew the history behind those decisions.

When Roger Peterson was hired as Dale Wedge’s deputy director for Geauga County Emergency Services, Wedge documented important day-to-day decisions, highlighting his love for the county and ensuring Peterson knew the history behind those decisions.

Wedge retired from his leadership position in 2017, leaving a legacy of selfless dedication to the county he called home for a lifetime.

“Everything Dale did revolved around improving his surroundings,” said Peterson, currently director of GCES. “He loved his community and worked hard for it — 95% of his work will never be noticed because he kept things running correctly.”

Wedge, 64, died Dec. 29, 2021, at his home in Chardon, after being diagnosed with cancer Nov. 4, 2021.

“I just want to say that even though Dale became ill, he would want to be remembered by the way he loved the community of Geauga County and the people he served,” said Gretchen, his wife of 38 years, adding her husband never complained.

Her sentiments mirror the outpouring of social media posts in honor of a man loved by many.

“A great man, kind, great leader, good friend, supported others, heart-of-gold, generous and extremely helpful,” noted just a few.

Wedge, a 1975 graduate of Chardon High School and inductee of CHS’s Hall of Fame, as well as a Kent State University alumnus, met his wife, a 1979 CHS alumnus, at what is now Hambden Country Inn.

The couple have two children — Jared and Lindsey — and Labrador Retriever, Mazy.

This week, friends and family stretching across Geauga County and beyond are remembering the dedicated community leader who touched so many of their lives.

“Within a few years, Dale called me in his office and told me he wanted to retire and said he felt I was the best person for the job,” Peterson said. “He told me that my knowledge base and experience in public safety had given me the leadership skills that I needed along with my past work experience as a nurse, (which) gave me what I needed to be able to talk to people and show compassion — that I had built a relationship within the county and the people of the county had a comfort level with me.”

Wedge wrote a letter to Geauga County Commissioners outlining his thoughts and Peterson was appointed as his predecessor.

“Dale had been grooming me over the past few years even though I didn’t know it,” Peterson said. “Dale left me a letter when I came to work on the first Monday as the director and he was no longer with the agency.”

Peterson has kept that letter and reread it every so often, reminding himself of the reason he entered into public safety and the high standards he must uphold.

The power of a heartfelt letter came full circle just before Wedge’s passing.

On a recent walk with Gretchen and Mazy on Walter C. Best Wildlife Preserve’s Cattail Trail, she shared Peterson wrote a letter to her husband just before his passing.

Her eye’s teared up at the fact her husband got the gift of knowing Peterson’s sentiments one last time.

It meant so much to him, she said, as did Wedge’s calling to public service.

He served as a part-time Burton police officer for 29 years and a Chardon Fire Department volunteer firefighter from 1978 to 1985.

“I considered him a good friend colleague,” said Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand, who knew Wedge for more than 40 years.

They worked side by side many times and relaxed together — whether fishing or putting on clambakes.

Wedge, an avid-fisherman, enjoyed catching walleye and perch off his boat.

Geauga County Sheriff Chief Deputy Thomas Rowan met Wedge when he worked as a park officer for Geauga Park District back in the mid to late 80s when Wedge worked more hours for Burton Police Department.

Rowan said Wedge would bring walleye to the clambake every year to share with everyone there.

“We had planned on going fishing together,” Rowan said. “I’ll miss not having the opportunity to go.”

Hildenbrand said Wedge was dedicated to Geauga County his entire life from maintenance director to emergency management director, and from volunteer firefighter to law enforcement officer.

“Dale’s passing is a tremendous loss for Geauga County,” the sheriff said. “During the many Perry Nuclear Power Plant exercises, Dale was absolutely the most knowledgeable. I, as many, will miss Dale very, very much.”

Wedge was a second-generation Chardon firefighter — his father Clifford Wedge also served.

“Dale possessed a ‘service above self’ mentality and truly enjoyed being able to help his fellow Chardon residents,” CFD Assistant Chief Thomas Hummel said.

Wedge’s love of history, especially of the Chardon area, carried over to his love for the fire service, Hummel added, noting Wedge was instrumental in his help with stories published detailing the history of Chardon’s first responders.

That belief was a driving force in all Wedge did, whether in his work or in the community, where he always made a point to give back.

He served as a member of the Chardon Jaycees, Fraternal Order of Eagles and Chardon Civil Services Commission and volunteered at the Chardon Food Pantry and in the Meals on Wheels Program for the Geauga County Department on Aging.

Peterson said Wedge worked very hard behind the scenes during his tenure with him.

He was the first one in and the last one out, and in the winter, his van plowed a lot of snow on his way into work.

The last few years, before his retirement in 2017, he was part time — being paid for 28 hours per week, but Peterson said Wedge regularly put in 40/45 hours per week.

Gretchen fondly said her husband also found joy in collecting things — such as music (45 rpm vinyl records) — noting “The Beatles” were one of his favorites — and yard signs, which made her smile.

Wedge also had a photographic memory.

“When he was talking to a group or teaching, sometimes his eyes would look at the ceiling,” Peterson recalled. “I asked him about this and he told me that he couldn’t read the paper in his memory with all those faces in the background.”

Even at Lake Village Campground in Andover, where he and his family and friends spent much time together, Wedge volunteered to serve on various boards, cleaning up lots around the property and checking on neighbors.

Rowan said he was involved with a lot of things both professionally and personally. A few years ago, he wanted to do some safety programs at the campground for children and he asked Rowan to provide any publications he had at the sheriff’s office.

Peterson said Dale expected more of himself than he expected of others.

“This county will never know what we lost when Dale passed,” Peterson added. “He was the man in the background that did the dirty work and wanted no recognition. He probably would be pretty mad at me for even telling you about this. Dale will just have to get over it and allow a little spotlight to be shined on him. Dale would do good, then walk away.”