"My father was like the founder of a family business. Not the normal type, a plumbing company, electrician, or an auto mechanic like his father had been. His father, my grandfather, could not begin to comprehend why anyone in their right mind would actually enjoy, downright love, the challenge and experience of going into a burning building. But he was impressed and proud that his son was one of those people.
It became a family business around the time I learned to walk. The fire station was the center of the community in West Corners. It sponsored the little league team I played for. Ice cream and cupcakes were an annual tradition that continues to this day. The older I got, the more I learned about the serious, real side of things; the sometimes very ugly side.
I had the best teacher in the county, if not the state. One that I’m proud to say has had the same influence on at least three generations of Broome County firefighters. By the end of his thirty years as a New York State Fire Instructor, nothing would make his night more than to have a young man or woman approach him at the beginning of a class and say “my Grandfather said to say hello to you.” He was immensely proud when I put on the white coat and helmet of a chief, and there was no better advisor I could t urn to.
Even better than that for him was when his first grandson joined the family business. As much as he enjoyed it, I had an even better perspective having been able to learn from him and then teach my son. Dad visiting Mike at his station in Montgomery County, Maryland brought out a t spark in him. Seeing the pictures of the county chief hang a medal for valor around his grandson’s neck brought tears to his stoic face. Having his second grandson come into the family business was the cherry on top of the sundae. He lived vicariously through their stories and not surprisingly, was never shy in offering his opinion to them. He was beyond excited at a multi-day visit Daniel paid to Maryland to ride with his cousin. Having both his boys on the same fire truck was a dream come true.
The girls, his granddaughters, were his sunshine. He delighted and marveled at their educational and professional accomplishments. They wrapped him around their little fingers, and it was a place he was happy to be. Showing off his granddaughters at his favorite local restaurants was an early day in heaven for him. Megan and Katie were among the best at getting him to do things he didn’t really want to do.
He outlived the doctor’s projections, and there is only one reason. That is the loving care he received living with Beth, Jack, Katie, and Daniel. The countless sleepless nights, trips to doctors and hospitals, and other medical treatment. Beth Ann never wanted to be a nurse, but going through this, she became one Mom would be proud of. Having a real one there in Katie was priceless. And Jack and Daniel probably know more about the care and treatment of cancer patients than they ever wanted to. No one could have done more to make his last year better than they did, and I will be eternally grateful for that.
Like most men, his family is his legacy, but in the case of my father, it’s not limited to his blood relations. The fire service is a family and his legacy is present throughout this room, this county, this state, and beyond. All those he taught and influenced in his long career.
While he’s no longer with us in person, his spirit will be felt for generations more. And I can tell you from personal experience, God’s fire department just picked up on heck of an incident commander."