SARANAC LAKE - Long-time Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Don K. Duso passed away on Sunday, Jan. 10. He was 78 years old.
Charles Dobson is first assistant chief of the department. He said in a release issued Monday morning that the membership extends its "sorrow to Chief Duso's family during this time."
"The fire department, as well as the community, has lost a well-respected and integral part of our community," Dobson said.
Duso started with Saranac Lake Fire in April 1956. Over the years, he held numerous positions in the department, and served four terms as fire chief; from 1983 to 1986; 1988 to 1991; 2003 to 2005; and from 2007 to present.
In addition to his service at the fire department, Duso will no doubt be remembered for his dedication to the community. He spent countless hours volunteering his time to various causes throughout Saranac Lake, including the Winter Carnival.
Saranac Lake Police Chief Bruce Nason said Duso was a pleasure to work with, and that he understood the importance of cooperation between the fire and police departments.
"I had the pleasure of working with Don as fire chief and as Winter Carnival Committee chairman," Nason said. "He was always calm and professional when dealing with emergencies."
Nason also noted that Duso was the first to offer or obtain inter-departmental training to improve upon emergency response times.
"When it came to Winter Carnival, he truly cared about the community and worked diligently to ensure the events were successful for their enjoyment," he added. "He will be missed."
John McEneany is a trustee for the village of Saranac Lake. He said he first met Duso when he moved to the area in middle school.
"I was saddened to hear Mr. Duso had passed away," McEneany said. "I've known him since I first moved up here in eighth grade, some of his kids and myself are the same age. We used to swim at Crescent Bay, play at Crescent Bay and Mr. Duso used to chastise us, educate us - he was a parent to us growing up. Then I became older and realized the community service he has done. His contribution to the fire department, his contribution to the Winter Carnival Committee, and his contribution to the village of Saranac Lake was and is profound; he will be sorely missed."
Village Mayor Tom Michael echoed many of McEneany's sentiments, noting the community has suffered a tremendous loss.
"From my own experience, I can remember being a little kid and Don Duso was always Winter Carnival," Michael said. "I saw him building the Ice Palace from before I started grade school; he was always part of the Winter Carnival. I knew him from the marina, and I got to know him better as mayor. He was always there to help out if I needed some advice; with 50-some years of experience, many of the issues you've faced have happened before. He always offered some reflection. He was always there to help somebody, and Saranac Lake will be hard pressed to replace someone like Don, and my thoughts and condolences go out to his family."