NEW BERLIN – Firefighters from all across Chenango County came together in the Village of New Berlin Friday night to honor past members and the achievements of those still involved in the fire service.
Before attending the annual 2009 Chenango County Firemen’s Convention banquet, open to all 21 fire departments in Chenango, more than 100 firefighters and their families attended a memorial service at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
Following the ceremony, the New Berlin Fire Department hosted the convention’s banquet at its fire station and honored members for their lifetime achievements and named the fireman of the year.
“We are glad to be here tonight. We are here to recognize your service and the sacrifices you’ve all made in keeping our communities safe,” said New Berlin Volunteer Fire Chief Shawn Patrick.
“We are here tonight not to simply honor the fire bureau; we are here tonight to honor each one of you,” remarked former New Berlin Fire Chief George Hanslmaier to the crowd of EMS and fire service members, nearly all of them volunteers.
Chenango County Fire Coordinator Matthew L. Beckwith addressed the crowd updating the current state of the Chenango County Bureau of Fire. Following Beckwith’s remarks, the four candidates for Chenango County Fireman of the Year were announced: Ken Strong of Afton Fire Department, Joe Eggleston of the Greene Fire Department, Ronald Beckwith of the Pharsalia Fire Department and Ray Baldwin of the Oxford Fire Department. All together, the four men represent over a century’s worth of experience in local fire service.
Later that night, an emotional Beckwith again took to the podium to announce this year’s recipient.
“It is a very well known fact that the evolution of becoming a firefighter is based off family tradition, heritage, and is passed on from generation to generation. This year’s award recipient was not only exposed to the fire service by his father, but has also done his part in continuing the tradition by passing along his knowledge and experience to his children,” he said.
Ronald Beckwith, father to Matthew and to Michael K. Beckwith, deputy Chenango County fire coordinator, was named the 2009 Fireman of the year.
Ron was a founding member of the McDonough Fire Department and his includes service in the Pharsalia Fire Department as well. He held the office of Fire Chief for a total of 21 years, 8 with McDonough and 13 with Pharsalia.
“Two of his more memorable incidents include the F2 tornado of that went across two townships causing havoc to the Pharsalia community in 1998 and the county’s largest fatal fire where three children and one adult were killed,” Matthew told the crowd.
Robert Handy, of the Norwich Fire Department, was also honored at the dinner with the Howard Bartlett Memorial Award...