GR police and fire departments honor longtime chaplain

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A longtime chaplain for the Grand Rapids police and fire departments turned 72, and dozens of people swung by to show him love on Sunday.

“Father Den’s just been — he’s been an instrumental role in a lot of our lives,” said Capt. Matt Keusch from the Grand Rapids Fire Department. “We just really wanted to honor him in some type of way during these trying times.”

In poor health and a strange time, Father Dennis Morrow celebrated his special day from his window.

But despite the challenges, those outside let him know he hasn’t been forgotten.

Dennis Morrow celebrating his birthday on May 3, 2020. (Courtesy)

“I just went upstairs and saw him and he was in tears,” Keusch said. “You know, he’s been a friend, a mentor, he’s been our chaplain —the police and fire department’s chaplain. He’s been a priest for over 40 years. He’s had a huge influence, impacting a lot of our lives.”

He’s been a chaplain for the Grand Rapids police and fire since 1976, providing spiritual and moral support for the departments and their families.

A courtesy photo of Father Dennis Morrow. (right)

“He means the world to us. He’s helped many of us through hard times,” Keusch said. “Whether it’s dealing with difficult calls — we deal with a lot of death — so Father Den’s been there to always take care of us and help us out during those trying time.”

“His father was a firefighter. So, as a kid he was kind of born and raised in that atmosphere,” said Bill Vander Vennen, a co-chaplain and lifelong friend. “That’s all he’s ever known.”

It was a moment of pride for those keeping our community safe.

“Especially in today’s society where respect sometimes is not where it should be, but the whole first responder program has taken on a new light today,” he said.

Father Dennis Morrow’s birthday celebration. (May 5, 2020)

And if there’s one takeaway, it’s to show Father Den that everyone out here is family.

“I like to help people out and I like to honor people and this is just one way of doing it,” Keusch said. “I mean, I might have the idea, but it’s everybody here coming together to celebrate his life today.”