Paul O’Connell (centre) was honoured by Yarmouth’s veteran firefighters association April 8 at the Yarmouth Lions Club hall. Here he is congratulated by Charles Crosby, the event’s MC, while O’Connell’s wife, Pauline (who was presented with flowers), looks on.ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
By Eric Bourque
The Yarmouth veteran firefighters held their annual recognition dinner Tuesday and Paul O’Connell was the evening’s special honouree.
Event organizers made a point of keeping the identity of this year’s award recipient under wraps until the dinner – similar to what they did last year – and O’Connell said they succeeded in catching him off guard.
Asked about it afterwards, he said he had “no idea” what was coming, believing only that he had been chosen to present something to one of the other members.
When he saw his wife and daughters, however, he knew something was up.
“I said ‘oh, something’s going on here,’” he said.
Charles Crosby, who again served as MC for the dinner, said all the people the association has honoured over the years were deserving of the recognition, but he said he was particularly pleased to be honouring O’Connell, given what he has meant to the veteran firefighters association, a group he helped establish more than two decades ago.
With this in mind, Crosby – who said he has attended all but one of these annual dinners – said the award presentation he was making to O’Connell was “the best one I’ve had to do yet.”
Interviewed after the event, O’Connell recalled how the veteran firefighters group came to be.
“We said maybe we should form an organization where the vets can get together and do something for the town and so that’s what we more or less did,” he said.
A firefighter himself for 13 years, O’Connell was a member of the St. George company, back in the days when the Yarmouth Fire Department was made up of several companies.
O’Connell said he remembers a spirit of “friendly competition” among the Yarmouth companies and “good camaraderie.”
As for this year’s veteran firefighters dinner and the decision to keep the guest of honour in the dark until the last minute and then surprise him at the event, it was the same sort of thing the association did a year ago, when it recognized Sid Francis, who has since passed away.
The dinner was held at the Yarmouth Lions Club hall, where another event involving the veteran firefighters group is planned for May 3. On that date a lobster supper will be held in support of the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society.
The upcoming dinner is an example of how the veteran firefighters organization tries to help the community.
Aside from doing what it can for the local area, O’Connell says the association is just a great bunch of people.
“I love the organization and all the guys are A1,” he said.