2 Shelby firefighters, Howard Watts and Rick Quackenbush, honored for 50 years of service

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Jason Watts and his dad Howard Watts, left and right center, hold a mounted gold axe the family presented to Howard in celebration of his 50 years as a member of the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company. 

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 8 January 2023 at 12:13 pm

Tim Petry, president of Shelby Volunteer Fire Company, presents a plaque for 50 years of membership to Rick Quackenbush.

SHELBY – The Shelby Volunteer Fire Company’s 54th annual installation banquet Saturday night was one of tears – tears of joy for celebrating two member’s 50 years as a firefighter and tears when reflecting on a fatal house fire to which firefighters responded in June.

Dale Watts was master of ceremonies for the evening, which began with a welcome from company president Tim Petry and introduction of invited guests and local dignitaries.

The fire company and auxiliary each lost a member during 2022. A brief ceremony paid tribute to Gary Williams and Gwen Way.

Each also acquired one new member during the past year.

Howard Watts presided at ceremonies installing new officers for 2023. Executive board officers are Tim Petry, president; John Palmer, vice president; Kirk Myhill, treasurer; Tiffany Petry, secretary; Dale Watts, sergeant-at-arms; Karl Haist Jr., chaplain; Phil Keppler, assistant chaplain; and Kali Sturtevant, steward.

Trustees elected are Bill Luckman, three years; Andy Benz, two years; and Gary Lamar, one year.

The Executive Board and Firematic officers are sworn in by Howard Watts during Shelby Volunteer Fire Company’s 54th annual installation banquet Saturday night.

Firematic officers are David Moden, chief; Scott Petry, deputy chief; Zach Petry, assistant chief; Crystal Luckman, firematic captain; Hunter Sturtevant, firematic lieutenant; and Tiffany Petry, EMS captain.

New officers of the Ladies’ Auxiliary are Elaine Watts, president; Patricia Fuller, vice president; Robin Watts, secretary; Lori Myhill, treasurer; Marion Fry, chaplain; Kali Sturtevant, trustee for one year; and Mary Herbert, trustee for two years.

Members of Shelby Volunteer Fire Company’s Ladies Auxiliary take the oath of office during the installation banquet Saturday night.

Awards presentations began with Tim Petry choosing Bill Luckman as recipient of his President’s Award.

Outgoing chief Jason Watts thanked Dale Banker for his dedication as Emergency Management coordinator and congratulated his replacement, Justin Niederhofer. Then Watts announced his choice for the Chief’s Award.

Outgoing Shelby Fire Chief Jason Watts, left, congratulates David Moden, newly elected chief who was recipient of the Chief’s Award.

“Thirty years ago, David Moden presented me with the Chief’s Award and tonight I present it to him,” Jason Watts said.

He went on to explain he had intended to give up the position as chief last year when he accepted a job as head of Medina’s Department of Public Works.

“I thought I could manage both,” Jason said. “When I needed him, David stepped in and picked up the slack.”

He also commended Zach Petry, Scott Petry, and Tiffany Petry, who kept equipment and training up to par.

Jason went on to describe the heartbreak when the department responded to a fire June 21, in which a young man lost his life.

“We got the call there was a house fire on Freeman Road, and people were trapped and jumping out windows,” Watts said. “We had two trucks on the road within minutes and others from Medina. Everyone on our team knew we did everything we could, yet a 22-year-old perished.”

This was the first fatal house fire Shelby had responded to since 1978, Watts said.

“I was never prouder to be chief of this fire company than during our debriefing after that,” he said. “Tim was in charge of the debriefing. We always claim to be a big family, and it was never more evident than on that day.”

Representatives lined up Saturday night to read proclamations to Howard Watts, third from left, in honor of his 50 years as a member of the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company. At left is Bill Eick, Orleans County Legislature; Andy Polecki, FASNY; Scott Wengewicz, Shelby town supervisor; Howard Watts; State Senator Rob Ortt; and Eileen Banker, chief of staff for Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

He went on to say that what makes a great chief are the firefighters underneath him.

“We are so fortunate to have so many past chiefs to lean on – to offer advice and to look up to,” he said. “One of those people is my dad (Howard Watts), who has shared his knowledge for 50 years. He’s the reason I was convinced to stay on as chief another year, so I could present him with his 50-year plaque.”

The two shared a tearful hug as Jason presented his father with a plaque of the American flag and Shelby Fire Company insignia. Later, all his family gathered around to present Howard with a large mounted gold axe.

Tim Petry asked all the members of the Watts family to stand up. He said all the Watts are always there for any event, and Howard has held every office, except secretary.

A second firefighter, Rick Quackenbush, was also presented a plaque for his 50 years as a Shelby volunteer firefighter.

(Left) Shelby Ladies Auxiliary President Elaine Watts, left, recognized Lori Myhill with the President’s Award at the annual installation banquet Saturday night. (Right) Elaine Watts presents a $5,000 check from the Ladies Auxiliary to president Tim Petry and newly-elected chief David Moden.

Both Watts and Quackenbush received proclamations from representatives of the town of Shelby, Orleans County Legislature, FASNY, Senator Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

Ladies’ Auxiliary president Elaine Watts thanked all the ladies and men who helped during the year. She said they are always looking for new members. She chose Lori Myhill for her President’s Award, and also presented a certificate for 20 years membership to Marybeth Koch.

Elaine then presented a check for $5,000 from the Auxiliary to David Moden and Tim Petry for the firemen.

Tim Petry also commended Dale Root, Shelby highway superintendent, and his crew of Rusty Hofmeister and Bill Wolter for their work in clearing the roads during the blizzard from Dec. 23-25.

Others who were acknowledged were Steve Seitz, who has chaired the annual gun raffle fundraiser for 30 years; outgoing officers, Dawn Petry and Joe Kyle; Jay Grasso, grant writer, as “Friend of the Fire Company” and Crystal Luckman who chaired the banquet.

Tim Petry, right, commends the Shelby Highway Department for their efforts during the recent blizzard. From left in back are Rusty Hofmeister, highway superintendent Dale Root and Bill Wolter. Seated in front are Dale Watts and Dawn Petry.