Dale Appel: 2015 Citizen of the Year

by Pat Moynahan on August 26, 2015

Senator John Schickel presents the Kentucky Admiral award to Florence Rotary Citizen of the Year, Dale Appel.

Senator John Schickel presents the Kentucky Admiral award to Florence Rotary Citizen of the Year, Dale Appel.

The Florence Rotary Club has named Boone County Water Rescue captain Dale Appel as the 2015 Citizen of the Year.

Appel has led the development of the unit into a model for water rescue, recovery and safety training over the past 45 years. The 50-person Boone County team has traveled all over the region and as far away as Tennessee and Nebraska to help others.

“Dale Appel is man of great passion,” said Gary Griesser, a director of the Florence Rotary Club who made the announcement at a luncheon on Monday, August 17. “He suffers with those dealing with trauma and desires to help.”

The Citizen of the Year award recognizes a person who renders exceptional service to the community. Recipients are people who don’t seek recognition for their efforts but epitomize the Rotary International motto of “Service Above Self.”

Appel’s involvement in water safety began in 1968 when he was put in charge of the Boone County Civil Defense recovery team. The unit started with an Army surplus landing craft, surplus ambulance and no budget. He has remained at the helm more than 40 years and has kept the team alive through organizational changes, budget crises and other challenges.

His passion for water safety traces to the death of a friend and the friend’s father-in-law in a boating accident on the Ohio River in 1970. Appel felt helpless in trying to rescue his friend because Northern Kentucky did not have a recovery team equipped to handle such tragedies. He took it upon himself to create one.

“Instead of working drownings, he wanted a boat on the Ohio River to prevent boating accidents and save lives,” Griesser said. “He recruited and organized others to work with him and determined he would never stand idly by during such a time of crisis.”

Boone County Water Rescue currently is a division of Boone County Emergency Management, operating on a non-profit basis and available to all governmental agencies. The team includes certified divers, emergency medical technicians and trainers. Appel wrote the drowning reconstruction and search techniques manual and teaches a course at Eastern Kentucky University.

Team members volunteer more than 12,000 hours annually to water safety activities, according to Boone County Administrator Jeff Earlywine.

“To a person, they have a great respect for Dale, and they all truly like him,” said Earlywine. “They are infected with the same kind of passion and dedication for water safety issues.”