Shelby honors 2 firefighters for 50 years of service
Shelby Volunteer Fire Company also swears in officers during annual meeting
SHELBY – Two members of the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company were honored Saturday night for 50 years of dedicated membership.
Steve Seitz and Sidney “Buster” Watts each joined the fire company in 1970.
Seitz said he joined right out of school. His family had been members and he always liked coming to the fire hall and see the parades in which they participated. Besides, he and Buster grew up together.
One of the most gratifying things for Seitz was receiving the President’s Award three times.
“That showed I was really appreciated,” he said.
For Watts, belonging to the fire company was all about family and the respect he got as a firefighter. His father was a charter member of Shelby Volunteer Fire Company and growing up, Buster and his siblings spent most of their time at the fire hall with their parents. His mother was one of the original members of the Shelby Ladies Auxiliary.
During their 50 years of membership, both Seitz and Watts were active in the fire company.
Seitz was chairman of the fall gun raffle for 30 years. He works all through the year on discounts and raffle prizes to save the fire company money.
“The Fall Gun Raffle is always a big success due to Steve’s dedication every year,” said Tim Petry, president of the fire company. “Steve always lends a hand to all the chairman of our other events.”
Seitz volunteered to be the bride in a mock wedding the fire company had in the 1980s, and he also donates and cooks a variety of game at Shelby’s annual chicken barbecue.
Watts has always supported the fire company and shown his appreciation for them. He served many years as president, vice president, secretary, bingo chairman and Nevada chairman. He was one of the starters of the Christmas party and served as an usher in the 1980s mock wedding.
Both Seitz and Watts received plaques from the fire company and certificates and/or proclamations from Orleans County Legislator Bill Eick, Shelby deputy supervisor Jeff Smith, Senator Rob Ortt, Assemblyman Mike Norris (who also represented Assemblyman Steve Hawley, whose district used to include Shelby) and Kenna Liddell from the Firefighters’ Association of the State of New York.
Pat Fuller, president of the Shelby Ladies Auxiliary, and chaplain Phil Keppler presided over a memorial service in honor of four members who died during the past year: Charlie Wilson, Kenneth Schaal, Anthony Satkowski and Robert Fuller.
Petry introduced master of ceremonies, Stefano Napolitano, chief of the city of Batavia Fire Department. Napolitano shared his reasons for becoming a firefighter, having joined the fire service 33 years ago in Herkimer County. He gave up a career as a mechanical/nuclear engineer after joining his local fire company as a volunteer. He became a fire inspector at the State Firefighters’ Academy, where he wrote curriculum.
He told the firefighters leadership was getting everyone to act in a way to achieve a common goal. He said leadership is a gift which can’t be bought. It can only be obtained in one way.
“You have to earn it,” he said.
Napolitano also stressed how important it is when a new firefighter comes up with a new idea.
“That’s very positive,” he said. “We’ve often heard someone say, ‘It was done this way for the last 50 years and we’re not going to change.’ If you have that attitude, you’re never going to get better.”
He urged all in the room to try and be a hero to somebody.
“Every day, do something nice for someone,” he said.
He added he was very blessed to lead 33 people in the city of Batavia Fire Department.
Tim Fearby installed Shelby’s new officers. They are Executive Board members Tim Petry, president; Gary Lamar, vice president; Kirk Myhill, treasurer; Tiffany Petry, secretary; Vinny Viterna, sergeant-at-arms; Phil Keppler, chaplain; Karl Haist Jr., assistant chaplain; and Dawn Petry, steward.
Trustees installed are Andy Benz, one year; Lee Hellert, two years; and Marcus Watts, one year.
New firematic officers are Jason Watts, chief; David Moden, deputy chief; Scott Petry, assistant chief; Zach Petry, firematic captain; Crystal Luckman, firematic lieutenant; and Jeff Lyons, EMS captain.
Members of the Ladies Auxiliary were installed by Tracy Hendricks. They are Patricia Fuller, president; Elaine Watts, vice president; Robin Watts, secretary; Lori Myhill, treasurer; Brianna Wheeler, sergeant-at-arms; Stacy Benz, chaplain; Rosemary Pray, three-year trustee; Delores Wolters, two-year trustee; and Sharon Wright, one-year trustee.
Chief Jason Watts installed new Junior Firefighter officers. They are Alex Benz, president; Degan Bragg, vice president; Maddison Simpson, secretary; and Frankie DiCureia, sergeant-at-arms.
The awards ceremony began with president Tim Petry announcing the winner of his President’s Award.
“Every year it is really tough to pick a winner,” he said. “But this year was easy.”
In an unprecedented move, he named members of the entire fire company as the recipients of his award.
“During this past year, this fire company has become even more of a family,” Petry said. “That’s why I’m presenting my award to the complete fire company.”
For his award, he had a wooden plaque made with symbols of the fire company. Incoming chief Jason Watts accepted the award for the department.
Watts is beginning his third term as fire chief. Five years ago, Watts said he turned the position over to Andy Benz, and now Benz has turned it over to him.
Benz completed his term by choosing Zach Petry as recipient of the Chief’s Award. He said Petry has really matured during the last year and he is going to make a fine officer.
Benz announced the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company responded to 197 calls during 2019, most of which were EMS. They have one new EMT, Josh McKeehen; one new certified first responder, Nick Brown; and Joe and Lori Kyle were both re-certified as EMTs.
Shelby was awarded the most EMS training hours in the county, with 789.
Three new firefighters, John Palmer, Jenna Prince and Trevor Fox completed the Firefighter Officer I class taught by Napolitano.
In his farewell speech, Benz urged all new firefighters to take all the training they can.
“Be a leader and learn how to speak, not only to fellow firefighters but to members of the community, especially law enforcement,” he said. “Take new members under your wing and teach them all you can.”
Alex Benz and his Junior Firefighters do fundraising each year, and this year they raised enough money to purchase three sets of lights for Shelby’s fire trucks.
Pat Fuller said the Auxiliary had a very busy year. She presented Auxiliary secretary Elaine Watts with a gift certificate for her hard work as purchasing agent for the department.
Then Fuller explained how the firemen work side-by-side to help the Auxiliary any way they can. As a result of their fundraising efforts, the Auxiliary was able to present president Tim Petry and outgoing chief Andy Benz with a check for $10,000.
Recognition was given to Rusty Hoffmeister for his work in developing the new parking lot on the corner of South Gravel Road and Allegany Road. The fire company is also going to be looking at remodeling their building next door, Petry said.
Three men who are not even members of the fire company were acknowledged for their efforts in selling raffle tickets for Shelby’s events. Buddy Watson, Bob Clark and Gary Brien all step up to sell an enormous number of tickets each year.
Petry also commended Shelby and three other local fire companies who joined to sponsor a boot drive to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation. On Sept. 7, Shelby, East Shelby, Lyndonville and Ridgeway raised $7,152.15 in two and one-half hours.
Final recognitions were paid to Mike Fuller, who served 44 years in the Shelby Highway Department and was a strong supporter of the fire company; and to Junior Wilson’s Sportsmen’s Club.
Junior Wilson donates generously to the fire company, without even being asked, Petry said.
The evening concluded with gag gifts being presented to Howard Watts, Andy Benz and Stefano Napolitano.