VERGENNES — Gov. James Douglas set the tone for the evening at last Wednesday night’s Addison County Firefighters Association annual dinner meeting.
He asked the scores of white- and blue-shirted men and women present at the Addison Eagles Club to think for a moment about longtime Vergennes Fire Chief Ralph Jackman, a lifetime member of the ACFA who died Jan. 2 after 62 years of service to his department.
“Ralph’s gone, but we’ll always remember his service to the community,” said Douglas.
The awards portion of the dinner also reflected the formidable influence of both Jackman and his twin brother, Fred, (who died about one year earlier) on the association. The ACFA renamed its youth firefighter of the year award in Ralph Jackman’s name, and the firefighter of the year award in the name of Fred Jackman, who served in the Bristol fire department for more than six decades.
Chad Perlee of the Bristol Fire Department was honored with the Fred Jackman Firefighter of the Year award.
Perlee’s department cited his work fund-raising for the department and his leadership in researching and buying new equipment.
“You joined your department in 2001 and have been an active interior firefighter since that time,” Chief Robert Jenkins of Ferrisburgh said to Perlee before handing over the award.
Jenkins went on to name Tony Porter of the Starksboro Fire Department as the Francis Shorkey Chief of the Year, for his “total commitment to (his) department and the fire service.”
“You are known for a straightforward leadership style and ability to quickly assess a situation and devise an action plan,” Jenkins said. “The awards committee feels you could probably work with anybody.”
Several members of the ACFA received Lifetime Memberships at this year’s award’s banquet. They were Middlebury Fire Chief Richard Cole, former Monkton Fire Chief Butch Dupont, Middlebury firefighter Larry Volkert and Steve Torrey of the Addison Fire Department.
In other awards of the evening, Vermont State Police Lt. Bruce Melendy and Troop Commander Capt. Donald Patch gave a special State Police Award to Richard Gagnon, Steven Gagnon, Sean LeSage and Mark Mordasky for their bravery and quick response at an Orwell car crash this past September. The four men rushed to a two-car accident, dove into a burning vehicle and pulled out a mother and her two children before the car was consumed by fire.
Rep. Greg Clark, a Vergennes Republican, read the recent resolution in the Vermont Legislature in memory of Ralph Jackman, which Clark sponsored along with Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes; Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Weybridge; and Sen. Harold Giard, D-Addison. The Legislature passed it unanimously.
In his remarks, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie echoed Gov. Douglas’s commitment on funding for firefighter training programs, and he wrapped up his speech in a wave of applause, thanking the firefighters for their service to the county.
“You’re working toward a greater future for our children,” he said.
• Ralph Jackman Youth Firefighter of the Year: Brok Levasseur, New Haven Fire Department.
• Line Officer of the Year: John Boise, New Haven Fire Department.
• Senior Firefighter of the Year: George Smith, Bristol Fire Department.
• Emergency Technician Award: Ryan Emilio, Middlebury Fire Department.
• Community Service Award: Jane Grace, Addison Fire Department.
• Vermont State Firefighter’s Association Community Service Award: Joel Bouvier, Bristol Fire Department.