Rob Jerdo cuts into the cake during a celebration honoring his service as a member of the Wadhams Volunteer Fire Company for 68 years. Jerdo was one of the founding members of the company and put in many hours working on the firehouse, training firefighters and leading the unit.
One man on his way to the Wadhams Water meeting was shocked and honored in a special surprise ceremony held to celebrate his service to the Wadhams Volunteer Fire Department for over 68 years.
On Dec. 6, accompanied by his wife Mary, Bob Jerdo arrived at the Westport Town Hall to a crowd of fire company members, town officials, assembly woman Teresa Sayward, and family members.
“If I had known about this I would have tried to get out of town,” Jerdo said after the ceremony.
“We knew you wouldn’t show up if you knew what was going on,” Town Supervisor Dan Connell said. “Just so we’re clear, this is not a retirement party. You’ll be at the fire company tomorrow morning washing trucks.”
Jerdo was presented with an outstanding service award from Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, A Proclamation from FASNY, Certificate of appreciation from the Office of Fire Protection and Control from Deputy Fire Coordinator Herb Clark, a certificate of appreciation from the town board and a lifetime free pass to all basketball games at the Westport Central School.
“The residents of the town of Westport and the hamlet of Wadhams wish to extend their sincere thanks and appreciation for Bob’s years of unselfish devotion and protection he has given to his community,” Connell said.
The people in Wadhams have been trying to figure out how to honor Jerdo for his time and energy given to serving the Westport, Wadhams area Connell said.
Jerdo joined the Essex County at the age of 16, a year later in 1945 he lied about his age and entered the military and served for four years. Without missing a beat he returned from the army to the fire department and his wife Mary.
“Your exemplary commitment as well as your devotion to mankind and life and property are sincerely appreciated and will always be remembered,” Essex Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said.
Jerdo was also one of the founding members of the Wadhams Fire Company. Ernie LaPine, Chaplin of the Westport Fire District said the people of Wadhams though served by the Westport Fire Company saw a need for a department closer to Wadhams in case of an emergency.
“The 1950’s Wadhams was a pretty busy little hamlet,” Ernie LaPine, Chaplin of the Westport Fire District said. “When you drove into it had something that Westport doesn’t have, it had a blinking light at the intersection.”
LaPine said in 1957, 24 department members got together and formed the Wadhams Fire Department. The members built the department that stands in Wadhams today.
For all the 55 years the department has been operating, Jerdo has either served at the chief or first assistant fire chief since the department began.
“Does he look 84-years-old? Hell no, he doesn’t act it either,” LaPine said. “Rob thank you for being an intricate part of our community. We want to thank you for your loyalty, you dedication, and you devotion and for gods sakes give us many many many more years in the fire department.”
Westport Fire Chief James Westover said Jerdo was and still is a great example and teacher for what it is to be a fireman. Westover said when he first joined the Westport Department, then Fire Chief Franky Spooner said to him follow Jerdo.
“If your at a fire Mr. Westover and I’m not there, he said listen to Robby Jerdo cause he can teach you and tell you a lot. So I did,” Westover said. “All you younger guys out there, if you want to learn anything just ask this gentleman, he’s ripe full of information and he can teach you a lot for the younger fireman.”
Jerdo said over the years, he was always keeping busy, working as a machine operator for the rail road, coming home to play ball with his three daughters and the department.
Over the years he said things have only gotten better as the department has increased training, technology advancements and communications, and improvements in equipment.
“Then Turn out gear was a rubber coat and if you got too close to the fire you were gonna burn with the rubber coat,” Jerdo said. “It’s changed a lot in many years, for the good.”
Though Jerdo said if he had the chance before the celebration to run and hide at his hunting camp or get out of state, he was appreciative of all the friends and family who took the time to hold the event.
“I’d like to thank everyone for coming this has been great, I was some surprised,” Jerdo said.