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Staff Writer

SHIRLEY — Ubiquitous in delivery, the words dedication, commitment and appreciation represented the spirit within a Bull Run Inn function room as the Nashoba Publishing 2008 Extraordinary Service Award ceremony took place last week.

Welcomed by managing editor Kate Walsh, recipients from Ayer, Devens, Groton, Harvard, Pepperell, Shirley and Townsend included EMTs, a paramedic, firefighters, a telecommunicator, a Marine, an emergency manager, a fire chief and a bank.

Ayer Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi spoke of North Middlesex Savings Bank’s years of financial support to safety programs in schools and summer camps for Ayer children.

“I thank Mr. Marshall (NMSB president William Marshall) first. When you do (these programs) year after year it’s harder and harder to get volunteers, but they (NMSB) are enthusiastic every year. Last year the Student Awareness of Fire Education (S.A.F.E.) funding was cut out. We’d not be able to have (the program) without the support of the bank,” Pedrazzi said.

He said NMSB funds the spring S.A.F.E. program in schools, Camp Pete in August, a safety curriculum in the fall and ice safety program in winter.

Marshall said the commitment toward safety training starts with state Fire Marshall Stephen Coan, the chiefs of individual towns and their volunteer firefighters who provide “dedicated individuals” to teach.

“Schools are difficult to break (programs) into and to be able to enter is most beneficial,” Marshall said. “Our board of trustees was looking for an entity to support in eight towns. We think it’s important to be a regional program. The number of heroes this program produces in children who save lives is phenomenal.

“It’s a pleasure to be a part of it. I’m humbled to be nominated by Chief Pedrazzi. We do it because we all enjoy volunteerism, and it’s good for business (protecting homes)” he said.

Marine 1st Sgt. Roderick Johnson of the 25th Marine Regiment was the inaugural military honoree, nominated because of the outreach to schools and community he and his Marines of Contact Team One perform.

“9/11 was not just military, it is civilians, police and firefighters, too. It is a great opportunity to sit with you, to receive this award and to have served in Massachusetts, a great state,” Johnson, a North Carolina native, said.

A basketball coach as a civilian, Johnson, who retires this year to teach Junior ROTC down south, noted that the Celtics were champions when he entered the Marines 22 years ago and are again, as he leaves.

“I guess I’m the leprechaun for the Celtics,” he joked. “I will be able to show my students in ROTC what a great state Massachusetts is.”

Devens Chief Thomas Garrity was honored not only for his years of duty in the Coast Guard and fire service, but for his role as Devens Safety Officer working with and coordinating the multi-faceted federal, state and local first responder community at Devens.

“I really don’t know why they (MassDevelopment) selected me. I have a pretty good team. You’re only as good as the men under you. Thank you for this honor,” the chief said.

Groton Fire Chief Robert Bosselait and former ambulance director John Walsh praised their town’s nominee, 22-year EMT and mentor, Kathy Morin.

“She never fails to do what’s asked of her. Groton is a better place because of her,” Bosselait said.

Walsh described Morin as a “faithful friend, someone I’ve often sought for counsel” whose “been trying to retire for years.

“This is not your retirement party,” he joked. “We are very proud we could recommend Kathy for her time and expertise for Groton,” Walsh said.

Morin responded, “It’s a privilege to work with all of you.”

Harvard EMTs Charles Perry and Pete Messina were honored for their long years of service and innovative approaches to their jobs, which are not only extraordinary but freely given.

The two declined to speak as they received their awards, however they later marveled at the ability of nominators to single out members in a profession with such similar requirements in any town. A listener reminded them, it’s all about the execution of the job.

Pepperell Deputy Emergency Management Director, systems administrator and firefighter/EMT Den Connors was honored not only for his multi-tasking and volunteerism but for his commitment, outlook and personage, particularly as he struggles to work while fighting lymphoma.

“On behalf of all department heads I can support the unanimous decision (to honor Connors),” Police Chief Alan Davis said. “Despite his illness, he’s there, supportive and always getting the job done when asked.

“We all support him, hoping he will be well. I appreciate being here to see Den get this tonight,” Davis said.

Connors, possessing a quick wit, said, “This is my fourth attempt at a career. My first was a disc jockey so I can say a lot about nothing. I failed at three (disc jockey, astrophysicist and corporate vice president),” he said jokingly

“I would so much like to return to be a firefighter for Hook and Ladder Company, a CPR instructor or EMT instead of a corporate vice president in today’s uncertain world. I’d so much rather be a deputy emergency director than a DJ. It’s so nice to be involved with everything at a local level. Thank you,” he said.

Honorees from Shirley included Fire Chief Dennis Levesque, Deputy Chief William Callahan, Capt. Joseph Hawthorne and firefighter William Poitras, all honored for their long-term devotion to duty.

Speaking for the chief, who could not attend, Callahan said, “On behalf of all of us, thank you for making everyone aware of what we (firefighters) do.”

Townsend senior telecommunicator Diane Babineau and paramedic Wanda Goodwin were their town’s nominees; Babineau for outstanding composure under fire during a baby-not-breathing call, and Goodwin for her work teaching fire safety to schoolchildren.

Babineau could not attend, however Goodwin, who is stepping down from the teaching job, was there.

“I had the honor and privilege to nominate Wanda,” said Fire Chief Don Klein, “I’m sorry to see her go. Sorry to see her have to leave to keep her paramedic license up (Goodwin now works for Rockingham Ambulance in Manchester, N.H.). As a Firefighter I and II plus paramedic (also Fire Officer I and II), she needs a schedule to be a wife and mother.”

Goodwin thanked the newspaper for the annual awards ceremony and NMSB for its S.A.F.E. dollars because “Townsend really benefits. Townsend has good working relationships in schools and we’ll have three new principals whom I’m sure will continue.”

She added, “I thank my husband for putting up with my career.”

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