by Terry Duffy
Fire company inductions are typically enjoyable times of friendship, of camaraderie among members. Of roasts, of pats on the back for a job well done.
Such was the case last Saturday at Youngstown. Only this one was also quite different.
"Today is the day we recognize our members, our new officers, and pay tribute to our members for their accomplishments and years of service," said YVFC President Greg Robertson Sr. in his opening remarks. "We also wanted to make our 100th a very special event."
And that it was.
Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co. celebrated its 100th year anniversary of service to the Youngstown community in fine style at this members' event. The mood was upbeat, as seen by the dozens of good natured jibes to members throughout the program by master of ceremonies Larry Stuart, a former Lewiston police officer, now attorney, who formerly served with Lewiston No. 1 Volunteer Fire Co. and is now a YVFC honorary member.
It was also poignant at times with the honoring of 18 select members for their years of service and commitment to YVFC. Recognition of being there, of contributing.
Volunteer firefighters, you see are a special breed. Especially when one considers all that's involved. The work and demands are truly wide ranging, from participating in such intensive training programs such as firefighter 1, firefighter survival, hazmat courses, chemical suicides, refresher training, rescue tech, EMS certification and the like.
The duty also involves answering calls, of being summoned out on a moment's notice, of jumping into uncertain situations, whether it be a resident assist call, a structure fire, a rollover accident, mutual aid assist, that lifesaving EMS call, and more. It's working together to get the job done.
And it's time spent with the company. Time away from friends, family, the job, the personal time. And it's time that comes with no pay. True dedication.
As mentioned, the YVFC honored a select number last week.
Service Awards included: Adrian Jacques and Jeff Jircitano, five years; Greg Quarantillo, 10 years; James Acome Jr. and Dennis Shira, 15 years; James Laughlin Jr., 20 years; Alan Truesdale and Fred Wilksmore Sr., 30 years, David Gombert and David Truesdale, 35 years; Dennis Chmaj, 40 years; and Brian Muller, 50 years.
Exempts honored were: Frederick Gibson, Peter Johnston and Leo Winslow, five years. Ladies Auxiliary members included: Mary Ellen Nelson and Sharon Scofield, five years; and Alice Chmaj, 40 years.
All totaled, that represents 355 years of service among these select 18. And, one can only guess the amount of service time the balance of YVFC's 113 other members have compiled.
As said, dedication. Take William Brian Muller, who was recognized last Saturday for attaining 50 years of service. It's commitment that dates to the 1960s. Muller has held such roles as chief, third assistant chief, first aid lieutenant, delegate, and trustee, while also serving a stint as president of the Niagara County Fire Chief's Association. He and his family - son members Scott and Todd and his wife Joanne - combined literally have spent lifetimes associated with YVFC.
Member Dennis Chmaj and his wife Alice were both recognized for 40 years apiece; Timothy Egan was honored as firefighter of the year for his commitment. And there are many more examples among the company's volunteers.
Robertson and YVFC Chief Eric Wieland announced that Saturday's members-only event would not be the only such recognition the company will be having this year. An expanded community-wide event is forthcoming, with a date and additional information to be announced. It will be a time for area residents to say thanks to members of Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co. for all they have done and all they continue to do.