IAFF 5th District Vice President Emeritus Charles Buss Dies

March 18 • 2021

The IAFF is saddened to report the death of IAFF 5th District Vice President Emeritus Charles Buss, 82, who died on March 12 in Indio, California. He is remembered as a dedicated union leader and champion of the labor movement.

Services: Charlie’s family will receive relatives and friends on Saturday, April 10, 2021 from 1:00 to 3:45 PM at Zacherl Funeral Home, 875 E. Division Street in Fond du Lac. A Memorial Service will be held at 4:00 PM at the funeral home.

“My condolences to the Buss family and the 5th District as we learn of the passing of Charlie,” says General President-Elect Edward Kelly. “The 5th District was well served by his leadership and his fighting spirit will live on across the IAFF.”

“We will be forever indebted to Brother Buss’ many contributions as a local, state and district union leader and for his dedication to charities like the Muscular Dystrophy Association,” says 5th District Vice President Tom Thornberg. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Cathy, sons, step-daughters and extended family members.”

Buss was called to the fire service in 1965 when he joined the Fond Du Lac Fire Department and was assigned to Fire Station 2. He also became a dedicated member of Local 400, becoming president and serving in the position until he retired from the department in 1991.

Perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments was adding ambulance service into the Fond du Lac Fire Department, making it one of the first departments in Wisconsin to do so. Meanwhile, Buss also served on the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin (PFFW) Executive Board in various capacities from 1971-1990 (as vice president for the last seven of those years).

In 1990, he was elected IAFF 5th District Vice President and served until 2000 when he was awarded District Vice President Emeritus status by Convention delegates. He was known for traveling tirelessly throughout the district to protect the interests of the membership.

His legacy carried over to his son, Brian, who joined the Rochester Fire Department in Minnesota and became a member of Rochester Local 520 in 1999.

“Even though I joined a fire department 300 miles from my hometown and in a different state, his influence was felt far and wide,” says Local 520 member Brian Buss. “Due to his role as 5th District Vice President, everyone knew my dad and everyone had a story to tell about his 30 years of union leadership. There was never a doubt that he lived and breathed the fire service and the union.”

For everyone who knew him well, they knew they could almost always expect to see him wearing the same two things.

“I will always remember his red sports coat and the gold boxing glove chain he wore around his neck,” says General President Emeritus Harold Schaitberger. “I am sorry to hear that one of our best and most dedicated is gone. He will be missed.”

The boxing glove was a nod to his 10-year Golden Glove amateur boxing career in the late 1950s/early 1960s. He won district Golden Glove championships every year from 1955 through 1964, except for 1962 when he was called to serve his country with the National Guard.

When Buss was not helping his union brothers and sisters, he donated his time to many charities, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Toys for Tots.

Charlie is survived by his wife, Cathy; sons Todd (Cherie) Buss and Brian (Rebecca) Buss; step-daughters Francesca (Eric) Schroeder and Anitra Botticelli-Mitchell; brother Robert (Sali) Buss; brother-in-law Harvey (Judy) Wollersheim; grandsons Jackson (Amber) Buss, Dawson Buss, Donovan Buss, and Brady Buss; step-grandchildren Logan, Lilly, Landon and Haley; as well as a niece and nephews.