Grasonville VFD cel­e­brates 60 years of ser­vice

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Front Page - By DOIUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

GRASONVILLE — Grasonville Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment cel­e­brated its 60th an­niver­sary Satur­day af­ter­noon, Aug. 18, at the fire house. All the fire trucks were re­moved from the truck bays, and the for­mal cer­e­mony took place in­side. GVFD Pres­i­dent Matt Coursey wel­comed ever yone, in­tro­duc­ing guests: Del­e­gate Steve Arentz, Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers Jim Mo­ran and Jack Wil­son, Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann and Maryland State Fire­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Mark Bil­ger. Pas­tor Jon Redi­ger of­fered an open­ing prayer for the cer­e­mony.

GVFD Fire Chief Ja­son Anthony spoke, pre­sent­ing a de­tailed and in­ter­est­ing his­tory of the Grasonville Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment. He first read, in a

solemn man­ner, the names of all 36 men who founded the fire de­part­ment 60 years ago in 1958. The first name on the list, read in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der, was the late Don­ald Anthony, Ja­son’s fa­ther, who was one of only seven fire chiefs Grasonville has ever had. Ja­son made note of that small num­ber of fire chiefs, as it has led to sta­bil­ity in the fire de­part­ment, with Ja­son be­ing the sev­enth.

Only a few found­ing mem­bers are still alive. Charles Bryan was one of the sur­viv­ing mem­bers who was present. Bryan made a com­ment from the au­di­ence which Anthony rec­og­nized from the podium. Bryan said, “Some­body de­serves a lotta credit for all the good that has hap­pened here over the years!” Anthony agreed.

Anthony then told the his­tory, “These 36 men, to­gether with noth­ing more than a de­sire to serve their com­mu­nity, founded one of the finest fire com­pa­nies in Maryland. They started with ab­so­lutely noth­ing more than a vi­sion. They pur­chased a used fire en­gine from Civil De­fense for $100. It was housed in a garage be­hind the Grasonville Post Of­fice.

“How did they re­spond to fires, one might ask? When there was an emer­gency, res­i­dents would tele­phone ei­ther Leonard Smith’s store or Holly’s Restau­rant, where mem­bers of­ten gath­ered. In this mod­ern era of com­put­eraided dis­patch and ra­dio pagers, any­one half fa­mil­iar with fire ser­vice in days of old must shake their heads in be­wil­der­ment, but it worked for them.

“In 1960, Gov­er­nor G. Millard Tawes presided over the ded­i­ca­tion of the GFVD fire sta­tion we stand in to­day,” Anthony con­tin­ued. “This fire house has serve us well the past 58 years.”

He listed sev­eral firsts Grasonville boasts for the county: it had the first res­cue com­pany; it was the first to have a Hurst “Jaws of Life” res­cue tool; and, in 1999, it be­came the first to have a ther­mal imager.

He also men­tioned the be­gin­nings of the pur­chas­ing of the fire com­pany lad­der trucks, the first one be­ing bought in 1957 for $27,500 from the Owings Mills VFD in Bal­ti­more County. It was paid for by funds from the Oys­ter Cove De­vel­op­ment. Other more mod­ern trucks fol­lowed over the years.

“As the GFVD stands to­day, we have roughly 90 mem­bers, nu­mer­ous ma­jor fire­fight­ing/res­cue ap­pa­ra­tus, a fire boat, two am­bu­lances, and more im­por­tantly, the re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion of the com­mu­nity we serve,” Anthony said. “The fire ser­vice has changed dra­mat­i­cally in only 60 years. Fire­fight­ers now are ex­pected to handle hazardous ma­te­rial calls, com­pli­cated res­cue sit­u­a­tions and calls in­volv­ing weapons of mass de­struc­tion. Our fire de­part­ment has pro­gressed to re­spond­ing in half a mil­lion dol­lar fire ap­pa­ra­tus to an ever-chang­ing com­mu­nity. The one thing that has al­ways re­mained con­stant, how­ever, is the de­sire to serve their com­mu­nity.”

Fol­low­ing the his­tory, sev­eral recog­ni­tions were pre­sented. First, Arentz pre­sented a Certificate of Recog­ni­tion from Gov­er­nor Larry Ho­gan to the Grasonville Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment, fol­lowed by another from the Maryland House of Del­e­gates, also from Arentz.

Arentz com­mented fol­low­ing the pre­sen­ta­tions, “We don’t ap­pre­ci­ate all they do here at the fire de­part­ments in serv­ing our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Anthony rec­og­nized fire­fighter Carl­ton “Skippy” Had­daway for his 40 years of ser­vice as a mem­ber of Grasonville Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment. Anthony re­marked, “I’m not even 40 years old! We should marvel at the ser­vice Skippy has pro­vided as an ac­tive mem­ber all these years.”

Coursey then rec­og­nized Pete Ris­ley for his 50 years of ac­tive mem­ber­ship with Grasonville VFD. Ris­ley was one of the seven for­mer fire chiefs. He served for 20 years as chief.

Both men re­ceived stand­ing ova­tions from the au­di­ence when their special fire­fighter plaques were pre­sented.

Fi­nally, Anthony called Grasonville VFD Chap­lain Jon Redi­ger for­ward and pre­sented him a parting gift as Redi­ger is mov­ing to Clin­ton to take another po­si­tion serv­ing at Independent Bap­tist Church.

Anthony told Redi­ger, “We’re happy that you had this op­por­tu­nity to move on in your life, but we’re sad you’re leav­ing.”

Redi­ger re­mem­bered the good times and the chal­leng­ing mo­ments when lives of fire­fight­ers had been lost in ef­forts to save oth­ers. He thanked the mem­bers of the fire de­part­ment for not be­ing afraid to step for­ward in ser­vice to oth­ers when dan­ger pre­sented it­self.

Redi­ger gave the clos­ing prayer for the pro­gram and spe­cially asked God to bless GVFD with the abil­ity to gen­er­ate the funds they will need to build a new state-ofthe-art fire sta­tion to bet­ter serve the com­mu­nity in the years to come.

The for­mal pro­gram ended with ev­ery­one be­ing in­vited to cel­e­brate in the air-con­di­tioned hall where free food was served for the oc­ca­sion.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Grasonville Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment hon­ored two long­time vol­un­teers dur­ing the de­part­ment’s 60th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion Satur­day af­ter­noon, Aug. 18. For­mer Chief Pete Ris­ley was rec­og­nized for 50 years of ser­vice; “Skippy” Had­away for 40 years. From the left, GVFD Pres­i­dent Matt Coursey, Pete Ris­ley, “Skippy” Had­daway and GVFD Fire Chief Ja­son Anthony.

PHO­TOS BY DOUG BISHOP

Grasonville Fire Chief Ja­son Anthony, right, presents a gift to Pas­tor Jon Redi­ger, who has served at GVFD chap­lain for more than a decade. The an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion was Redi­ger’s last of­fi­cial ap­pear­ance as chap­lain as he is mov­ing to Clin­ton to serve a church there.

Maryland State Dis­trict 36 Del. Steve Arentz, left, presents Grasonville VFD Pres­i­dent Matt Coursey with a certificate of recog­ni­tion from Gov­er­nor Larry Ho­gan for the fire de­part­ment’s 60 years of ser­vice to the com­mu­nity, Satur­day, Aug. 18.

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