Canton Volunteer Firefighters, EMTs and Fire Police Gather to Celebrate
An Evening of Reflection, Tradition, Community & Awards
The Town of Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS Department recently hosted an Awards Dinner to celebrate, recognize and honor the past five years of their service to Canton and the Farmington Valley community.
The time-honored rituals, traditions and bonds that members of this calling participate in, experience and share, remain a mystery to most people. The following are highlights of this special evening, when devotion to community and recognizing the extraordinary work of Canton’s bravest were celebrated.
Department Chief Craig Robbins began the evening by framing the work of Canton’s volunteer Fire, EMS and Fire Police members as a big puzzle, requiring many pieces coming together perfectly for things to run smoothly.
Chief Robbins: “The puzzle pieces are tasks, the many little things which need doing, that nobody thinks about. Many of the Awards tonight are going not to the most outgoing or loudest members, but to those who have been quietly carrying these puzzle pieces over the years; doing what was needed to keep the Department running, with none of us necessarily the wiser.”
Next, the most solemn part of the evening, The Invocation and Tolling of the Bell, acknowledged the pride members take in serving the community and the possible sacrifice they will have to pay in that service.
Assistant Chief of Fire Wayne Goeben: “Over the past few years, so many of our members have moved on to the next steps in their lives – police officers, career firefighters, paramedic nurses, physician assistants and military officers. They have spread the ‘Canton Brand’ from town to town and state to state. I am so proud to have been associated with them and to be affiliated with you now.”
“We’re from many walks of life, yet we are here now in unity for we share many of the same goals and aspirations. Ours is a brother and sisterhood which puts itself in harms way – on a moment’s notice. Thank you for providing us courage to perform our mission, empathy to share the pain of those we treat, and the drive and dedication to propel us forward.”
“Long before telephone or radio, when a firefighter died in the line of duty, a special signal was tapped out on a telegraph – five measured dashes, then a pause, then five measured dashes, another pause, then five more dashes. This signal, known as the Tolling of the Bell, was a sign of honor and respect for all firefighters who had made the ultimate sacrifice and has become a time-honored tradition.”
“Canton has lost one member, tragically, in the line of duty – Fire Policeman Arthur Vincent, in 1988. Tonight Art’s memorial bell will be stuck, in those three sets of five, to honor his memory and the memory of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the preservation of life and property.”
After dinner, Chief Robbins continued with the theme of puzzles – by the numbers this time – focusing on the 24/7, fall/winter/spring/summer response that Canton’s volunteer Fire, EMS and Fire Police are asked to make each year:
- 1,328 The total number of fire and emergency medical calls in 2016. This does not include weekly drills, community events, outside training, etc. that members are asked or expected to participate in.
- 24% The increase in 911 calls over the past 5 years.
- 10,997 The scheduled, duty hours for the EMS Division, in 2016. This does not include training, community events, etc. $250,000 The financial value to the Town of Canton of this free labor.
- 5 The number of ‘code’ saves by EMS in the past five years.
Chief Robbins: “5 is a rough number and probably low. These are people who were dead and who our EMS members brought back to life. These are people who woke up with their families this morning, who wouldn’t have if not for your actions. And, this number hardly represents the lives you’ve saved; people who have not become a statistic because of the care and treatment you provided. We have no way to put a number on those calls.”
– Countless Spouses, kids, parents and other family members who support us.
Chief Robbins: “The roles assumed by our 68 members are not easy, but neither are those assumed by their families. Speaking from experience, we could not do what we do without having our families to back us up. That goes beyond putting up with our hectic schedules; screaming pagers at 2:00am; holidays and other special events interrupted by a 911 call. Many times, you are the sounding board when a call doesn’t go as planned, or we just have to vent about something going on around the station.”
And then, it was time to recognize the ‘Best of the Best,’ which included a pair of siblings and a veteran firefighter:
Firefighter of the Year – Leo LeBoeuf
Assistant Chief of Fire Wayne Goeben: “Leo is heavily involved in mentoring new members and spends many extra hours inspecting and maintaining equipment. He is certified on all apparatus in the North Canton station. He brings his perspective, ideas and history to us for our consideration and incorporation. He is a self-starter and well respected individual.”
EMT of the Year – Danielle Kerr
Assistant Chief of EMS John Bunnell: “Danielle started out as a Cadet and moved her way up in the EMS Division. She is always eager to not only improve her own skill set, but to teach others what she has learned. Her technical expertise, exceptional teamwork and respect from others, are an example to us all.”
Officer of the Year – Ryan Kerr
Chief Robbins: “Ryan has been my go to guy on all sorts of projects, throughout the years, because I knew I could hand it off and not worry about it. In addition, he is extremely active in both our Fire and EMS Divisions. Over the past 5 years, he has responded to 1,761 calls, which leads everyone else in the Department – by a lot.”
Several other individuals were recognized, with a plaque, for their contributions:
Retirement: Pam Erling for her14 years of service in EMS. Fire Division: Joseph Viener for his recurring role as Sparky the Fire Dog at community events. EMS Division: Gerry Holland for his support in creation of the Department’s Paramedic service. Top Responder /Fire Division: Leo LeBoeuf. Top Duty Hours/EMS Division: David Bondanza. 50 Years of Service: Greg Sims.
In addition, each Fire, EMS and Fire Police member received a pin and either a tee shirt, sweatshirt or jacket reflecting their ‘Years of Service.’
Years of Service: (F= Fire; E=EMS; C=Cadet)
New Members: Jon Bates (F); Jackson Clarke (C, E); Rob Demming (F); Nathalie Jean-Louis (E); Sam Jenkins (F); Bill Larson (F); Brandon Sigman (F). 1 Year: Alexis Stephan (E). 2 Years: Emma-Lee Baldwin (E); Tom Malone (E); Manny Pantano (F); Blaire Telford (E). 3 Years: Melisa Harding (E); Jason Loftus (E); Mary-Kate McAllister (E): Chris Mutch (F). 4 Years: Jacki Tolpin (E). 5 Years: Megan Casey (E). 6 Years: Robert Bahre (F); Danielle Kerr (E); Erno Nandori (FP); Trey Nandori (FP); Rob Weed (F). 7 Years: Myles Angell (F); Jesse Barnhart (F); John Malentacchi (FP, E); Joseph Viener (F). 8 Years: Alyssa Lockwood (E); Brandon Shilosky (F). 9 Years: Gerry Holland (E). 10 Years: Stephen Goeben (F, E); Johnathan Gotaski (F); Mike Kadis (E); Chris Melite (F). 11 Years: Tom Gotaski (F); Ryan Kerr (F, E); Jason Wiedrich (F). 12 Years: Kristen Fillian (F); Joe Ouimette (F). 13 Years: John Bunnell (F, E). 14 Years: Pam Erling (E); Jeff Johnson (F). 15 Years: Sylvia Cancela (A); Steve LaPointe (F). 16 Years: Leo LeBoeuf (F). 18 Years: Rich Zommer (FP). 20 Years: Craig Robbins (F). 21 Years: David Bondanza (E). 22 Years: Dan Ege (FP). 26 Years: Wayne Goeben (F, E); Lowell Humphrey (FP). 27 Years: Derek Jacobs (A). 31 Years: Scott Goeben (F). 32 Years: Bill Arnone (F, E). 33 Years; James Juhl (F, E). 39 Years: Rich Hutchings (F). 40 Years: Willi Matava (E). 44 Years: Donald Osden (FP). 45 Years: Ed Korner (FP). 50 Years: Greg Sims (FP).
The evening ended with a Fellowship Gathering whose highlight was a lively Raffle of highly contested and sought after items. The Department thanks the following generous businesses who donated items for the Raffle: Avon Old Farms Hotel, Bahre’s Wine & Spirits, Ben & Jerry’s of Canton, Cake Gypsy, Dish ‘n Dat, Canton Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., Greater Hartford West Branch YMCA, Larsen Ace Hardware, LaSalle Market & Deli, NAPA Auto Parts, Reno’s Drive-In, Residence Inn by Marriott in Avon, Saybrook Fish House, Scotty’s Spirit Shop, ShopRite of Canton, Taprock Beer Bar & Refuge, and Wilsons Pub.