Memorial statue honors fire company volunteers

By Lynn R. Parks

All combined, the active members of the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company have 949 years with the organization. Members of the company's auxiliary have put in a combined 1,270 years.

Individuals' length of service throughout the history of the groups ranges from less than one year to 64 years, the amount of the time that C. Walton Smith Jr. had in when he died last year at the age of 85, still an active member.

It is to honor all of those members, as well as to honor past members in the 103-year-old company and those who will join in the future, that a statue was recently erected behind the fire hall, near the corner of Cannon Street and Delaware Avenue. A dedication of the memorial statue was held Sunday afternoon.

This memorial is dedicated to all past, present and future volunteers with the company and with the auxiliary," said Pete Stephens, company member and master of ceremonies for the dedication.

I believe that this statue will have an individual meaning for each person who looks at it," added Jack Cannon, who has served as company chief for 31 years. We are really dedicating a memory, a memory that will be different for each of us."

The statue was created by sculptor Brian Hanlon, Toms River, N.J. It features a larger-than-life firefighter kneeling before a large memorial stone, on which rests a folded blanket and a fireman's hat. The Fireman's Prayer" is carved into one side of the stone. On the other side is carved the dedication in honor of all Bridgeville company members.

Thirty-year member Matt Smith, son of Walton Smith, posed for the sculpture. Stephens said that he took 18 photos of the kneeling Smith, in full firefighter gear, and sent them to Hanlon.

This statue represents all of us," Smith said during the dedication ceremony. It will be standing for many years to come as a reminder of the good people who served, who are serving and who will serve to keep our Bridgeville Fire Company going."

Stephens declined to say how much the sculpture cost.

But he did say that more than $35,000 in memorial donations that the company has received went toward the cost. Additional memorial donations that the company receives will help with maintenance of the memorial.

Auxiliary president Bonnie Workman has been with the organization for 43 years. She commended people who volunteer to make their communities better places.

Volunteerism is not a choice for our community," she said. It's a responsibility. Volunteers aren't paid, not because they are worthless but because they are priceless."

County council president Mike Vincent, a member of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department, had similar praise for volunteer firefighters. What the county spends to support our fire service is a pittance compared to what we would have to spend to pay you guys to do what you do every day," he said.

What you do is more than you can imagine," said state fire commissioner Ron Marvel, also a member of the Seaford Fire Department and owner of Burton Bros., a hardware store in downtown Seaford that recently burned.

Stephens told the group that when he started classes at firefighting school, the instructor told class members that they were stupid. We were wondering what he meant," Stephens said. But then he went on to explain, telling us that there we were, about to sign up for one of the most hazardous jobs that there is and agree to not receive a dime for our services.

But that's OK," Stephens added. We are all here just because we want to help our communities. We want to protect property and save lives."

Bridgeville Town Commission president, Patsy Correll, spoke at the ceremony. This is a dedicated fire company," she said. They are first responders to everything that happens in our community and they have always done an excellent job. On behalf of the citizens, I thank you for all that you do for this community."

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