Lifestyle

Firefighter of the Year helped soldier's family during deployment

Anthony John and Bailey Bryant. - Courtesy image
Anthony John and Bailey Bryant.
— image credit: Courtesy image

There is an annual tradition in the fire department to come together and reflect on the past year with food, dancing, laughter and awards.

Even when your job is helping others, there are some moments that stand out more than others — and these moments were remembered Jan. 16 at South King Fire and Rescue's annual banquet.

Firefighter of the Year

Firefighter Anthony John (or "AJ"), a 15-year veteran, was chosen as Firefighter of the Year. His nomination was twofold. Not only did he receive accommodation for his work in rescuing seven people from an apartment fire in December 2008, but he also helped out a little closer to home.

As The Mirror reported before, firefighter Robert Bryant was deployed in Iraq for a year with the Army National Guard. While he was gone, John, who had gone to fire academy with Bryant and had been hired at the same time, promised to take care of his family while he was away.

John looked after Bryant's wife, Monika, and their daughter, Bailey. John helped with chores, helping them move during and after the remodeling of their house, and made sure Bailey was supported at a time when she missed her dad so much. He came to her class to teach fire safety and brought her to the front of the class, making her feel very special. John shared stories of her dad and him at work, impressing Bailey's classmates.

In her letter recommending John for the award, Monika Bryant wrote: "I can’t speak about AJ as a firefighter, but I can tell you about AJ as a person and a friend. If you asked him, he would tell you that it was nothing special. If you ask me, I have to tell you that he is a fantastic person and someone very special to Bailey and me. He was there for us when we needed help and we did not even have to ask. It is a blessing to know that no matter what, I can call on him and he will be there. I will be forever grateful for all that he has done for us and blessed to call him a friend."

Bryant has spoken out frequently about how the support of his fellow firefighters and the department helped ease his mind while he was deployed.

"In my time away from my family, the fire department really stepped up," Bryant said. "They supported my family — that really alleviated a lot of stress."

Officer of the Year

Lieutenant Ed DeGagne was awarded the Officer of the Year by his Battalion Chief Chuck Kahler, who noted that despite his family health issues, DeGagne came to work each day with a positive attitude.

Spokeswoman Donna Conner said that "Lt. DeGagne’s crew expressed that as a lieutenant and firefighter he is professional, compassionate and empathetic with a high degree of precision."

Other awards

Firefighters weren't the only one getting awards. Several community members also received recognition for their work.

The William Martin Community Award, named for longtime fire commissioner and community activist William Martin, was presented to Deputy Chief Mike Knorr for all his community involvement with the Kiwanis Club.

The Whitney Bellinghausen Community Service Award bears the name of the daughter of one of the lieutenants. Whitney died tragically in a traffic accident in 2007, but during her short life, she was all about helping others. Several years ago, she had created a cookbook of recipes from the firefighters and employees of South King Fire and Rescue, with the proceeds going to her favorite charity.

The Whitney Bellinghausen Community Service Award was presented by the Firefighters Foundation to Miguel Rodriguez this year. Rodriguez is a local business owner has consistently volunteered for SKFR for many years. His linguistic abilities have been beneficial for this department on many fronts. He is mostly responsible for a yearly donation to the Senior Services Program, which allows the elderly population to live safely and independently in their own home.

The Marcel Trotigan Award was presented to Richard “Dick” Body. Body is a longtime resident of Des Moines and is one of the few who are still able to drive a 1941 Sanford Fire Engine. Dick has spent many hours regaling people with the history and functions of the antique apparatus, giving kids rides and answering questions. The Marcel Trotigan Award is named for a volunteer firefighter/officer from then King County Fire Protection District 32 which was the Mirror Lake/Redondo area of Federal Way. Marcel volunteered for the department for many years through the mergers of several fire districts which would eventually become Federal Way Fire Department. He never missed a drill or a call during his service to this community so when he passed away from complications due to cancer, the Volunteer Firefighters Association at that time wanted to make sure his service was never forgotten.

• Employee of the Year went to Donna Franklin, the accounts payable expert.

• Sustained Excellence Award went to Assistant Fire Marshal/Captain Tom Raymond.

• The Making Our Lives Easier Award went to Steve Denton, fleet supervisor.

• The retiring fire commissioners were also honored at the banquet. Commissioner Jerry Harris retired after 48 years of service as a volunteer firefighter and commissioner. Commissioner Roger Hershey retired after 37 years of service as a volunteer firefighter, lieutenant, investigator and commissioner. Deputy Chief Ron Biesold was honored for 38 years of service as a volunteer and career firefighter, lieutenant, deputy chief and fire marshal.

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