An award sitting on a table was kept under wraps at last week’s Upper Pine River Fire Protection District’s annual awards ceremony.
“I thought it was a casket,” quipped Louise Newman.
The cover was lifted Nov. 17 to reveal the district’s newest award, named in honor of her husband, the “Chappy” James Newman Service Award. “I am deeply honored,” James Newman said. He began volunteering as chaplain for the department in 1998. While he cut back on his duties a few years ago, he still helps the department with pastoral care when he is able.
The award will honor staff who go the extra mile in serving the community, said Chief Bruce Evans. Corey Adamy, a firefighter and EMT, is the first recipient. “This is a cool thing to be the first at,” Adamy said as he was handed a plaque with his name engraved on it.
Newman, 86, has been volunteering his time for more than 70 years, starting as a Boy Scout in Texas City, Texas. There, he was involved in a horrible accident in 1947 when ships loaded with ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 600 people and injuring another 2,000. There were few police and firefighters on hand, so he and other Boy Scouts spent a week helping collect body parts, then he volunteered to work in the morgue.
“That gave me a very serious outlook on life,” he said in a video for the fire department. From that experience, he felt called to serve in a more meaningful way, becoming active in his church in Dallas, attending college and becoming a pastor. He served as a pastor for three years in an oilfield in Venezuela, then had to return home when he contracted a tropical disease.
He retired to Bayfield from Dallas, but that didn’t last long, and he became the pastor at First Baptist Church in Bayfield, along with serving as Upper Pine’s chaplain, earning the moniker “Chappy.”
Newman told the gathering he never served others seeking recognition, but it’s been nice when it has come along.
Adamy is a fitting member of the department to receive the first service award, Evans said. He has been integral to staffing Upper Pine’s station on the north end of Vallecito, and he also built a nifty little building on hinges that kids can shoot a fire hose at, knocking down the “flames” on the building.
Other employees were honored at the event, as well. Brian Leewitt is the department’s captain of the year. “I’m happy to be here,” he said, noting that he has a great job. “I’m happy every day.”
Adamy also was named firefighter of the year. “This means a lot,” he said of his second award of the evening. “I strive to be there for you guys,” he told his assembled co-workers.
Receiving pins for five years of service were Ash Harrison and Lisa Eckert. Mark Graham, Andy Miller and Paul Valdez received 10-year pins. For organizing the department Explorer Post, Steve Radford, Mark Fleming and Adamy were honored.
Harrison was honored for organizing the department’s fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which this year brought in more than $1,000.
Clark Brown received an award for leading Upper Pine’s community CPR training.
Finally, for her years of service to the Upper Pine Auxiliary, Phyllis Ludwig received a commemorative box and flowers thanking her for volunteering to help firefighters when they need meals or other support.
Board President Jeff Dyar concluded the event by thanking all staff and auxiliary members.
“We can never, ever thank you enough for your dedication to the department and each other,” he said. He also thanked Randy Larson, a former Upper Pine deputy chief and now the fire chief in Pagosa Springs, and Chief Tom Aurnhammer of the Los Pinos Fire Protection District for coming to help honor Newman.