Chet Kylander
Chet Kylander

For all the things Chet Kylander has done over his life, he doesn’t like the idea of getting credit.

“It was just something we could use, and it would be nice for the county, and so let’s do it.”

He prefers to see others take ideas and run with them, whether that’s keeping Sunday school going at the Methodist Church or keeping the Brown County Community Band alive.

Yet, he has never hesitated to take initiative when he saw a need.’My

“It’s not a picnic, getting things organized,” Kylander said. “It is an accomplishment.”

Kylander and his wife, Janice, moved to Brown County in 1971, when he took over management of Lutheran Hills Camp.

That was around the time he met Bob Roudebush, with whom he would work several times over the years.

Roudebush was looking for someone to take over as Scout Cubmaster in Helmsburg, and since Kylander’s son, Chris, was involved in the program, he stepped up.

Kylander would often stop at Roudebush’s Phillips 66 gas station in Helmsburg. One day, a firetruck went past on the way to an emergency, and Kylander asked how far it had to come.

When he learned the nearest fire station was Fruitdale, Kylander realized how long it would take for a response to reach areas farther to the west, such as the camp.

The second time a firetruck went past while they were standing in Roudebush’s station talking, someone commented that Kylander should start a fire station farther to the west. “‘And we’ll back ya’ up,’ — that’s been the story of my life: ‘we’ll back ya’ up.’”

That conversation led to the Trevlac Fire Department.

“That building, everything about it was built by the fire department personnel,” Kylander said. “The community was really in support of it, it seemed like.”

About 15 men volunteered right away, and for a few dollars, the department acquired two trucks from Warren Township in Marion County.

Volunteers kept the department viable in more ways than making calls. When a tank on one of the trucks needed fixed, members stayed all night at Roudebush’s shop fixing it.

When a freeze warning came on a Sunday afternoon, they jumped. With a few phone calls, the station was insulated before the temperature dropped, keeping the fire engine ready to run if needed.

Warren Township also donated an ambulance to the Trevlac department, and that led to the next chapter in Kylander’s life.


The department had two choices: let the ambulance sit unused, or get firefighters trained as basic medical responders. Members decided they wanted to get trained.At first, Kylander was not going to be involved with the ambulance side of things. He hated going into hospitals.

Then a friend pointed out that he was the president of the department, yet he wasn’t in the class with the other members.

“He hit me right between the eyes with one of the principles I have: Don’t ask somebody to do something you’re not willing to do yourself,” Kylander said.

He enrolled in classes in Columbus. Janice took hers in Bloomington.

Kylander did not stop with the basic responder class; he went on to become an EMT instructor. The classes he led in Brown County drew people from all over the state.

“I’m really proud of that,” he said. “The word got out I was tough: You knew what you were doing, or you didn’t pass the course.”

A plaque given to him by two students from Shelbyville hangs in his office.

It is surrounded by various awards, including one from Congress from his time at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division. But it is the plaque that reads “Best instructor in Indiana, Sept.-Dec. 1979,” that he draws attention to.

Around that time, Kylander won the bid to operate the county ambulance service.

It wasn’t a money-making proposition. Ambulance crews received a small amount of money for each run, but they were essentially volunteers.

In the early 1980s, as he was approaching his 60s, Kylander finally stepped away from the ambulance service. A run to Brown County State Park made him realize he would not always be physically capable of doing the work.

That was when he went to work at Crane as an integrated logistics manager.


The fire department and ambulance service were not the only efforts Kylander took on for the community. In addition to successfully founding the Brown County Community Band, he has also been a choir director and Sunday school organizer at area churches.He worked with Pods Miller — whose Miller’s Drug Store occupied what is now the Hobnob Corner at Van Buren and Main streets — to keep The Salvation Army viable.

He made musical instruments available to Brown County Junior High School for students to use.

Some of his efforts, such as the community orchestra and community choir, and a try at reviving the Sycamore Valley Senior Center, did not pan out as he had hoped.

“There’s some people say I could organize anything, which is wrong,” Kylander said. “Because the orchestra never materialized; the community choir never materialized.”

But success or failure, Kylander was never someone to sit back and wait when he saw a need.

Whether it was the woman who told him about her child’s passion for violin and his efforts to organize an orchestra, or that day in Roudebush’s gas station seeing the firetruck blast past, his reaction has been much the same.

“If something needed to be done, as a citizen of the area, I thought it was my responsibility to do my part,” he said.

His faith plays a part in his dedication as well.

“I think any time we can invoke God into any of the things we’re doing, all the better off we are, as a community,” he said.

Chet Kylander

Age: 84

Place of birth: Terre Haute

Spouse: Janice Kylander

Children: Chris Kylander, Linda Brinegar and Libby Zeigler

Parents: Clifford and Dorothy Kylander

Siblings: Bob and Joyce

Occupations: Manager at Lutheran Hills Camp, operated Brown County Ambulance Service, retired as an integrated logistics manager at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division in 1992.

Author photo
Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.