Coweta County Firefighters honored, 'Paw Paw' saluted at gala
By MARIANNE THOMASSON
More than 200 firefighters in dress uniforms and ladies in spike heels and long dresses filled the truck bays at the Coweta County Fire Department headquarters Saturday on Turkey Creek Road.
The bays were transformed into a banquet hall with fresh flowers, candles, festive linens and a catered dinner.
In the absence of Fire Chief Johnny Teeters, who is recovering from recent surgery, Deputy Chief Todd Moore spoke of Ward.
“Billy started his fire fighting career in Heard County as a volunteer,” he said. Later, when there was a vacancy in Coweta County, he was hired full time. “He was one of the original six guys in Zone 2,” he continued.
“My daddy said you don’t have to know everything. Just surround yourself with people who do. When there was a task at hand, Billy could do it.
“He wore something with CCFD on it 90 percent of the time. He was wearing a CCFD T-shirt when he died. He loved to have a good time and cared about people and animals, even having a pet deer,” Moore continued.
“He was my friend and I miss him.”
As Ward’s health worsened, some of the firefighters took it upon themselves to restore one of the first “store bought” firetrucks Coweta County purchased.
When work started, the truck wouldn’t even crank. Besides cosmetic improvements, the hoses were removed from the hose compartment and a hydraulic lift was installed. The lift would bring Ward’s casket up so it could be seen from the sidewalk. The truck was finished the morning of Aug. 29 and Ward died Aug. 30.
Ward’s CCFD identification number was 772 and was put on the truck. Ward’s helmet is also on display at the CCFD headquarters.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Ward’s brother Scott said, “He was my brother for 49 years. God couldn’t have given me a better brother. Y’all made him proud and he loved each and every one of you.
Each year 1-800-Board Up provides the Servants Heart Award. This year the award was renamed “Paw Paw Servants Award to go to a firefighter who lives by the example set by Billy Ward.”
This year the award was presented by Ward’s wife, Teresa, to Capt. Todd Bowie.
“Capt. Bowie fabricated our hose washers and repaired the equipment we broke over the years. He helped set up a trailer, built six back boards, headed up the team that restored Engine 772 and even refloored the hose bed for the Newnan Fire Department so Santa would have a nice place to ride,” according to Asst. Chief Alan Smith.
Among other awards:
• The 2012 Firehouse of the Year Award went to Station Two at Sargent. Asst. Chief Mitch Coggin said, “Their new facility is beautiful now, but for a while they had to work out of a trailer.”
• Firefighter Enrico Dean, a former recipient of The Life Saving Award, presented the 2012 Life Saving Awards to Capt. Craig Sherrer, Capt. Jay Lunsford and Firefighter Brandon Howard. He said, “Each of these men received the award for the life saving efforts performed during a motorcycle accident and who later found out the victim was the daughter of Fire Marshal Jimmy Gantt. “The guy didn’t make it and the girl was in the hospital for three or four months.”
• Firefighter Greg Gallagher was named Rookie of the Year. “The first year of a firefighter’s career is the most valuable because a foundation is created and he or she builds on it,” said Capt. Sherrer in making the presentation. Firefighter Gallagher learns quickly and is a hard worker. He does a lot of studying, trying to be better.”
• The Part-time Firefighter of the Year went to firefighter John Rhodes. Assistant Chief Harmon said, “Rhodes works for the city of Atlanta and then comes here. He’s always energetic and upbeat.”
• The late Billy “Paw Paw” Ward was named the recipient of the Firefighter of the Year Award. Firefighter Ronnie Smith presented the award to Ward’s wife, Teresa.
• Capt. Adam Westbrook won the Officer of the Year Award. In making the presentation, Asst. Chief Jeff Denney commented, “Capt. Westbrook is a good man and a good friend. He takes care of his people. He trains them and motivates them and gives them what they want.”
• A departmental photo collage was unveiled. It features all the 2012 firefighters and will hang in the fire department headquarters.
Several Fire Chief Awards were presented by Deputy Chief Moore in Chief Teeters’ absence:
• Capt. Todd Bowie, who said, “It’s an honor to work with every one of you and I hope I get to do it a lot longer.
• Firefighter Enrico Dean for “being professional and courteous, representing the department so well and always thinking about the other person.”
• Capt. Bryan Fuller, who commented, “This was the best year of my career and I’ll carry the memories for a long time.”
• Norma Haynes, who was dubbed “Miss Public Safety, does a lot of work behind the scenes.” Haynes said, “I love everyone here. The fire department is the best thing that ever happened to Coweta County.”
• Captain Chuck Loftin “is our computer whiz” and oversees the department’s information technology systems, according to Deputy Chief Moore.
“Firefighter Chris Lowe is a young man who has worked hard for everything he has accomplished,” Moore said. In receiving his award Capt. Sherrer commented on receiving calls in the middle of the night and recognizing the sacrifices that his wife and children have also made as a result of his career choice.
Capt. Brian Minix “does his job so the rest of us can do ours,” said Deputy Chief Moore.
Firefighter Justin Klingler is a young man who came up through our Explorer program and “has done a great job of developing himself. He gives back to our Explorer program by coming back every Thursday night to provide training to our new firefighter Explorers. He has a bright future in our department,” Moore said.
Capt. Craig Sherrer commented, “I get calls in the middle of the night. My wife and kids have had to sacrifice for me.”
Capt. Adam Westbrook “is a good man. If my wife was pinned in a car, he would be the one I would want to help her, Moore continued.
• Deputy Chief Moore presented his wife, Brenda, with the “Deputy Chief Moore Award” and a dozen roses because “she never complains.” When they were courting, they would be going on a date and his pager would go off. The date would be scrapped and they’d go to the fire instead.
• Deputy Chief Moore was presented with a Fire Chief Award on behalf of Chief Teeters by captains Robbie Flanagan and Craig Sherrer with the comments, “He’s humble and he works 24/7. We know because our phones ring in the middle of the night.”
Deputy Chief Moore summed up the evening stating, “We remember our past, our legacy. There is not a single person in this room I wouldn’t help. I’m proud to represent this great bunch of firefighters.”