The Perry Fire Association held its 27th annual awards and appreciation supper at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Saturday night, where about 100 diners gathered, including members of the Perry Volunteer Fire Department, several members of the Dawson Volunteer Fire Department, and their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives.
A prime rib dinner dinner was followed by an awards ceremony, beginning with the bestowal of the 2016 Firefighter of the Year to Fire Captain Andy Modlin. He used his acceptance speech to tease fellow Fire Captain Matt Hix, with whom he seldom agrees.
“Everyone who’s on the fire department knows that me and him sometimes just don’t get along,” Modlin said. “We don’t agree on certain things. We’re very verbal.”
Modlin told the story of the department’s tour of the Tyson Fresh Meats plant near Perry and noted that he knew the correct term for the fecal runoff discharged from the slaughterhouse. And Hix did not.
“And the point of the story was he came up and goes, ‘You know what, Andy? You were right,’ and I about fell over and had a stroke because I’ve never, ever heard that since we were in third grade. I’ve never heard that.”
Laughter also prevailed when the Rookie of the Year award went to Marion Lehman, a veteran firefighter new to the Perry force who now leads the department’s training division.
“I’m a little seasoned to be a rookie,” Lehman said. She is qualified as a firefighter I, firefighter II, emergency medical technician, vehicle extrication technician, instructor I, instructor II, officer I, officer II, inspector I and diver operator.
Past winners of the Firefighter of the Year award were also honored, including Frank Eiteman (1994), Brian Eiteman (1995), Grason Hill (1996), Jerry Anderson (2002), Chris Hinds (2005), Kevin McLaughlin (2009), Charlie Tuhn (2010), Rodney Cromwell (2011), Ronny Defenbaugh (2012), Andy Smith (2013) Doug Harlan (2014) and Andy Modlin (2015).
Several firefighters were thanked for their length of service in the cause of public safety in the Perry area. Receiving awards of appreciation were Bob Bennett for 35 years of service, Tom Wolf for 25 years, Dave Pillow for 20 years and Jason Bane and James Moreland for five years of service each. Also honored were newly retired firefighters Don Motz for 27 years of service and Mike Thomason for 20 years.
Firefighting is dangerous work, and one way to stay relaxed under pressure is by indulging in harmless horseplay and raillery. In this way, insider jokes and good-natured teasing gave rise to another category of awards at the annual banquet: the gag awards. For example, Fire Chief Hinds received a trophy for some minor damage occurring while backing a truck into the station house, and Fire Captain Defenbaugh took home a steel-toe trophy and an ever-grip fire ax for notable accidents during the year.
Perry Mayor Jay Pattee and the lovely and talented Jan Pattee were among the honored guests at the annual Perry Fire Association banquet, which also included Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson.
Dancing followed the dinner and awards ceremony, with music provided by Graney Entertainment of Perry.