COUNCIL BLUFFS — With Joe Espinosa, you knew where you stood.
The Council Bluffs Fire Department veteran was by the book, dotting all i's and crossing all t's in working to make the station as efficient as possible.
Espinosa, 79, died of cancer and was eulogized Wednesday by family, friends and colleagues.
Council Bluffs Assistant Fire Chief John Wickman called Espinosa “a very good leader.”
“He was strict but he was consistent,” Wickman said. “Everybody respected him.”
Espinosa spent 29 years in the department, rising to assistant chief — where he led the training division, which included overseeing promotions — in his final years before retiring in 1989.
At Council Bluffs' Main Fire Station, Chief Larry Wohlers remembered a man made for the job.
“He was the perfect person for promotional testing,” Wohlers said. “He treated everyone the same.”
Added Wickman: “He didn't have any favorites.”
Before his promotion, Espinosa served as the house captain, overseeing the day-to-day operation of the station.
Wickman joined the department in 1983 and worked the same shift.
“He was by-the-book, very regimental on all duties, on everything we did around here,” he said.
Wednesday was kitchen day for cleaning, and “it wasn't just wipe a towel over the table,” Wickman said. “We pulled apart the fridge, mopped and more.
“The bad part was we hated doing it,” the assistant chief added with a chuckle. “But the good part was everything was uniform. We knew what to expect with Joe.”
Wohlers, who also joined in 1983 but worked a different shift, said Espinosa's work ethic and expectations expanded to different shifts.
“His power and sternness carried over,” he said. “We'd make sure everything was in order because we knew he'd be coming around.”
Espinosa died on Sept. 16. He lived in Crescent, Iowa, with Sylvia Espinosa, his wife of 54 years.
He is survived by his wife; children John, Toni and Julie; eight grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. Survivors also include brothers Frank and Jim and sisters Margaret, Dorothy and Helen.
Wohlers said Joe Espinosa will be missed by all.
“Today, people around the station and the department still say 'We miss captains like Joe Espinosa,' ” the fire chief said.