By TOM BATHERS, Times Newspapers Peoria Times-Observer
Whenever a fellow firefighter approached Ivan Schoenbein with a question that he did not know the answer to, he always said the same three words -- "Go ask Wayne." Wayne Peplow, Dunlap’s fire chief for the last 21 years, always had an answer. And, more importantly, Schoenbein said, Peplow always kept his office door open. Peplow, 59, died May 25 at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, about three weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. "We will all miss him so much," said Schoenbein, a seven-year veteran of the Dunlap volunteer fire department. "You could always go talk to him about anything and he would always be able to help. He always had time for us. His door was always open." Peplow's death was the second tragedy to strike the Dunlap Fire Department. Just days earlier, firefighter and Peoria County sheriff's deputy Jim Mulay was killed in an auto accident while on duty. Jim Emanuels, a volunteer fireman, said all the firefighters are staying strong in the wake of both tragedies. "We're a family here," he said. "Jim Mulay and Chief Peplow were big parts of that family. Now, we all have to come together and support each other through these tough times. That's what they would have done for us." Schoenbein said he will miss Peplow's acute knowledge of firefighting and the way he made others feel better when he walked into the station. "He was a person that everybody wanted to follow," he said. "You couldn't have asked for a better chief and a better friend." Emanuels said Peplow was instrumental in elevating the small Dunlap Fire Department so that it was on par with other larger, more modern fire departments throughout the state. "He was very big on training and on bringing in new ideas," he said. "He was always encouraging us to take classes at Illinois Central College to expand our knowledge, and he even arranged for the fire department to pay for some of our classes." Emanuels met Peplow in 1982. "He was a big influence in my life," he said. "I will always remember him."