The Tabberts family has been involved in the Somers community for generations, especially with the Fire Department.

Fire Department

The department’s first chief was Ernest Tabbert Sr. He held the position from 1934 to 1961.

His son Ernest “Bunky” Tabbert followed in his footsteps and was on the department for 51 years, including 17 as Chief. His first tenure was from 1970 to 1979 and then again from 1984 to 1991.

“It was in my blood,” Bunky said.

And not just his. Four other members of the family have served on the Somers Fire and Rescue Department over the years: his son in law George Wojtak, son James Tabbert, daughter Carrie Tabbert and wife Dolores Tabbert.

A Kenosha News article published July 26, 2000, celebrating his 50 years on the department states that “Since the fire department was formed in 1934, there has always been a Tabbert on the department.”

Rescue squad

Bunky was one of the charter members of the rescue squad organized in 1977. At that time, state statute changed and the Sheriff’s Department stopped transporting patients. He soon enlisted the help of his wife Dolores (Dee) and son-in-law George Wojtak, who joined in 1978 after training together.

As a volunteer, Dee enjoyed the work and the people on the rescue squad.

Their first call, late Dec. 31 1977, was a bad car crash. One of the occupants died on New Year’s Day, the first death in the state that year. It gave Bunky pause.

“What are we getting into?” he wondered.

But it was not all bad, as they had a good crew working together that offered support to each other. They even created a special radio code: 10-1-10, which meant the dispatcher should start a fresh pot of coffee and the squad would pick up doghnuts on their way back from an early run to the hospital.

It was a good way to review the day’s call and see if they should have done anything differently to improve their response.

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Photos by Village of Somers.

Dee was a member until 2002. Her family is also steeped in the history of the community. Her father was Somers’ postmaster from 1945 to 1959.

“They have been both lifelong Somers residents,” said Village Trustee Gregg Sinnen.

They met in the ninth grade at Washington Junior High School shortly after Dee moved to Somers from Sturtevant. But Bunky had already noticed her.

“I may have ridden my bike by her house a few times,” he said.

Serving their community

Bunky served in the Army from 1951 to 1953 and was stationed in Germany as a tank driver during the Korean War.

Both he and Dee have been involved in the Festival Foods Heroes Cafe where Bunky is a member, and she helps out.

Dee has been one of the chief election inspectors for more than 13 years and helped out counting the especially large number of absentee ballots this year.

“She is one of our best poll workers,” said Somers Clerk/Treasurer Tim Kitzman.


On Oct. 7, 2020, Bunky and Dee celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. This was to be a special year for the couple as they each celebrate their 90th birthdays, but the COVID-19 pandemic canceled their plans for a family gathering.

“We couldn’t have them come here and get sick,” said Dee.

Friends and relatives from all over the country took it in stride and sent cards to Bunky and Dee’s daughter’s house and made videos congratulating them, surprising the couple during a small social-distanced event.

“It was good,” said Dee beaming.

Lawn tractors collection

Bunky has collected garden tractors including special edition patio tractors, all John Deere.

“I always like John Deere, and when they came out with a new model, I had to have it,” he said as he stood in the barn where he keeps his extensive collection and memorabilia.

“I would go out to the barn, and they just multiplied.” Dee said with a chuckle. “There is an assortment of everything out there. We call it the museum.”

For many years on the Fourth of July, they would enlist family members to drive Bunky’s personal collection of lawn tractors, which was nicknamed “Bunky’s Deere,” in the Somers parade.

“I think we had 23 garden tractors at one time,” he said unsure of the exact number. “We have only about 13 left.”

As Bunky lingered behind in the museum, Dee headed back to the house, passing the home where Bunky grew up, she added softly that its was probably the secret to their successful marriage, he being occupied with his tractors and she tending to the house.

“We haven’t killed each other,” Dee said laughing out loud.