A gala held at The Waterview to celebrate the Monroe Volunteer Fire Department’s 100th anniversary attracted over 260 guests Saturday evening. Firefighters wore their Class A uniforms and many of the women wore dresses to the semiformal, an evening of awards, dinner and dancing.
William Davin, president of the MVFD, told the audience how the fire company started in 1923, when President Warren Harding was in the White House and the town of Monroe was 100-years-old. The Stepney Volunteer Fire Department was already here, but residents also wanted a fire company in the town center.
Over the years, the MVFD adapted to changing times, and Davin said nobody knows what the future will hold.
“Our firefighters come from all walks of life,” he said. “Many of our people went on to careers in the largest departments in the world, right up to an Alaskan state trooper.”
Davin, who is the town’s longtime fire marshal, a past fire chief and a member of the Connecticut Firefighters Hall of Fame, asked all of those who served and are currently serving to stand up.
“We all took an oath when we joined the Monroe Fire Department,” Davin said, adding part of that is to create and maintain an organization its members and the town can be proud of. “I think you all did a very good job,” he said. “Thank you everybody.”
Monroe Fire Chief Josh Krize, emceed the event. Among the guests were several fire marshals and members of fire companies from throughout the region, places like Trumbull, Oxford, Shelton, Orange, Ansonia, Sandy Hook, Derby, Bridgeport and Greenwich.
Monroe’s other two fire companies, Stepney and Stevenson, were also well represented, as well as members of the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. Monroe Police Capt. Greg Smith and Lt. Steve Corrone, were also in attendance.
Monroe First Selectman Ken Kellogg, who attended the dinner with his wife, said a few words and presented the MVFD with a proclamation from the town, recognizing its service to Monroe over its 100 year history.
Kellogg, a paramedic who spent 30 years as a volunteer himself, thanked everyone who works in public safety, including fire service, law enforcement and emergency medical services, for their dedication. The first selectman spoke of all the time spent in training and response.
“I know the family time you sacrifice to respond to that call that predictably comes right during the holiday dinner,” Kellogg said.
Whether it is a dramatic rescue or something as simple as helping an anxious senior citizen change the batteries on her smoke detector that keeps going off, Monroe’s firefighters help people in their time of need, he said.
“You’re touching their lives,” Kellogg said. “So on behalf of the town of Monroe, I thank the Monroe Volunteer Fire Department for their 100 years of service to Monroe.”
“You run to the aid of strangers for people experiencing the worst moments of their lives,” he continued. “While the rest of us are evacuating and retreating to safety, you’re going in, entering unknown, chaotic and often dangerous situations. Thank you for that gift of 100 years of professionalism and dedication to this town.”
State Rep. Tony Scott, R-Monroe, was among the town officials at the dinner. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, could not attend, but sent recognition from the Senate.
Speakers included Monroe EMS Chief Don Smith, Stevenson Fire Chief John Howe, and Monroe Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Catalano, who shared some highlights from the fire company’s 100 years, since it first set up temporary operations in Herbie Johnson’s barn in 1923.
The first firehouse was built at the corner of Route 111 and Moose Hill Road, across from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and the modern building that stands at the corner of Route 110 (Shelton Road) and Moose Hill Road today was completed in 1948.
Jack Sheehan, a Monroe firefighter who sustained a “traumatic injury” after a fall while battling a residential blaze on Old Zoar Road last April, was recognized for his bravery as he continues to recover.
Oxford firefighters who rushed to Sheehan’s aid were also acknowledged as a group.
During an awards ceremony, Catalano recognized past president and past lieutenant, Tom DelMastro, and past chief, current president and chief’s aide Bill Davin, for their 50 years with the MVFD, serving with pride and distinction since 1973.
Catalano also asked Life Member Stu Haisley to stand.
“Stu joined in 1956,” Catalano said. “He’s been a dedicated member for nearly 67 years and, along with Edmund Clark who couldn’t be here, is our longest serving member.”
Every year, the fire company’s Womens’ Auxiliary recognizes a member of the year at its annual banquet.
“Last month they posthumously awarded member Sylvie Eaton, who sadly passed away this April, far too young after a strong battle with cancer,” Catalano said.
Every year, three members of the MVFD are recognized for distinctive service. “It’s never an easy choice given how many members give an outstanding effort to help take our department to the next level,” Catalano said.
“The Forrest Ryan Chiefs Award for Outstanding Service goes to our head engineer and executive board member Matt Jamison,” he said. “An apparatus engineer’s job is thankless and never ending, and this year was very busy with both of our engines undergoing heavy maintenance and upgrades, our historic LaFrance getting an engine rebuild, on top of other ongoing repairs and maintenance to the rest of our fleet. Matt is also a top three call responder and handles many other important tasks around the station.”
“Our 2023 Lloyd Stevens Member of the Year award goes to a member who joined us five years ago with prior firefighting experience, who said he was just looking to ‘help out a little bit.’ But Joe McNellis quickly rose to lieutenant and then captain, serves as our training officer, and is a top 10 call responder,” Catalano said.
He said McNellis is a wealth of firefighting knowledge and is a lieutenant on the Bridgeport Fire Department’s elite Rescue 5.
“He does a tremendous amount of charitable work and fundraising to benefit sick children and sick or injured firefighters,” Catalano said. “He also did a great job bringing in many donations in support of tonight’s event.”
“Our coveted Ryan Gardner Firefighter of the Year award goes to firefighter Sam Damone who joined us in 2021 and in short order obtained his Firefighter I, Firefighter II and EMT certifications,” Catalano said. “Sam’s an active member of our duty crew and overnight station coverage programs, and is a top 5 call responder. Without being asked, he’s always the first guy to grab a hose and start washing the fire truck, or to grab a broom and sweep the bays.”
“We’d like to recognize two of our most generous, long-time donors,” Catalano said. “First, the Mellen Foundation, which is affiliated with Town Fair Tire, for their generous financial support toward equipment purchases over many years. And Duane Carrubba of Carrubba Inc., for his unwavering generosity over the years.”
Both donors received certificates of appreciation.
Journalists Steve Krauchick, from Doing it Local Dot Com, and Bill Bittar from The Monroe Sun also received certificates of appreciation for covering local news and events, as well as getting the MVFD’s messages out about fire safety tips and its public events.
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