Fire company honors pair
By Renatta Signorini
Published: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A Norvelt couple took their final ride together on Friday in the bed of a fire truck.
Once Chester and Elaine Ludwig's caskets were securely placed on a green Norvelt Volunteer Fire Department truck, it slowly pulled onto Mt. Pleasant Road with lights flashing and small American flags waving.
God “knows that these two especially needed each other in life as well as in death,” said the Rev. Dr. Dale Porterfield during a eulogy for the couple killed in a one-vehicle crash on Monday.
The Ludwigs were devoted to the fire department.
Following the service at Jay A. Hoffer Funeral Home in Norvelt, white-gloved volunteer firefighters hoisted both caskets into the rear of the truck that took them to a cemetery in Tarrs.
Norvelt fire Chief Rick Balchik said the fire truck ride is usually reserved for deceased firefighters, but the department made an exception.
“Him and his wife — we just thought it would be fitting,” Balchik said.
The ride was “an honor,” said the couple's daughter, Tracy Smith of Mt. Pleasant.
Chester “Woody” Ludwig, 74, was a lifetime member of the department who enjoyed hunting, fishing and gardening.
Family friend Tom Viazanko of Lycippus grew up next door to the Ludwigs and remembers Chester Ludwig making horseradish with produce from his garden every Easter.
Ludwig, a Navy veteran, was a former officer and firefighter with the Norvelt fire department.
“He was very proud to be a part of that organization,” Smith said. “My mom and dad — that was their family outside of me.”
Elaine Ludwig, 68, was involved in the department's ladies auxiliary years ago. She loved to cook for family and friends, her daughter said.
“She was an ornery one; she was fun,” Smith said. “My mom was my best friend.”
“She was a character. She could make you laugh at the drop of a hat,” Viazanko said. “She was very witty.”
Investigators said that Chester Ludwig was driving on Mt. Pleasant Road in Unity at 2 p.m. when his truck crossed the center line and crashed into a tree. He and his wife were pronounced dead at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg.
Smith said her parents were returning from a doctor's appointment.
The couple had three grandchildren — Katie, 17, Jacob, 16, and Gage, 15. They raised two daughters, Smith and Michele Ludwig Brosh, who died in 1998. Jacob is Brosh's son.
“It was a tragic thing, but I'm glad they went together because they wouldn't want to be without each other,” Smith said. “They're with my sister; this is how they would want it to be.”
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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