He was a shoe salesman.

He joined his high school newspaper to avoid study hall.

He married Jen.

He began a career in fire protection because it was "too cold on top of buildings in downtown Chicago."

He is Ernie Yonkers, HFA's Godfather of Fire Protection.

In 1972, the same year Ernie started his career, Don Vito Corleone coined the phrase, "Great men are not born, they grow great." Truer words could not have been spoken about HFA's Fire Protection Program Manager whose motto is: "Maintain integrity and you've got nothing to worry about."

From design of sprinkler systems, fire alarms, special hazard fire protection systems or consulting for all HFA's teams regarding life safety - he does it. Ernie leads a team of nine on a daily pledge to provide professional fire protection services to this clients at HFA.

"You know, everyone has different perspectives. In the last 46 years I've learned a lot from a lot of different people," he says, adding, "I want to help pass on the knowledge and history of fire protection to this team and this generation."

Don Vito Corleone also said, "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." To that effect, Ernie wholeheartedly agrees. He consciously prioritizes his personal life before his professional and is actively involved in the lives of his four children and grandchildren alongside his wife, Jen.

He says people often ask him if working in the field of loss prevention and life safety ever gets to him, affecting the time and commitment to his family and he says no. "There's only so much you can do , so I don't let the weight go there. Fire protection is an art and a science... but family is heart."

Ernie Yonkers, P.E. can be contacted at 479-418-9673.