Valley Search and Rescue president Ashley Perry presents David Walsh with his framed founding member photo. – Ian Swinamer Photo
When David Walsh pulled up to the Valley Search and Rescue headquarters March 31, he couldn’t understand at first what all the cars were doing there.
Walsh had been preparing for what he thought was metal detector training – something he thought should have been called off due to freezing rain that evening. When he spotted EMO and RCMP vehicles as well, he thought there must be a search underway.
This time, though, Walsh – one of the founders of Valley Search and Rescue – was wrong. When he walked into the headquarters, everyone started applauding. The Waterville resident looked over his shoulder to see what all the hoopla was about.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
Walsh’s friends and colleagues had surprised him with an open house in his honour.
“I thought I was going to do some training,” Walsh said. “It was very enjoyable, quite a surprise. I guess they’ve been planning it for months.”
Although he was involved in search operations long before, Walsh said they started working to form a Valley search and rescue team in 1969. It was finally established in 1971. He was also a member of the Waterville and District Fire Department at the time.
Walsh said Valley Search and Rescue has changed dramatically over the years. There weren’t many search teams in Nova Scotia when they started, so they covered the entire province in a sense.
Walsh said he was delighted to see so many people he worked with over the years at the open house.
“It lifted my spirits,” he said. “I haven’t gotten over the excitement yet.”
Before he and the other members built their current building in 1977 at the Waterville airport property, the team used to meet in the garage of Rev. Harold Beaumont. Walsh said they also used to meet in garages of various members on occasion.
Valley Search and Rescue vice-president Cathy Diggins said it was quite fitting to hold the celebration at their headquarters, since Walsh had a hand in the building’s construction and played such an integral role in the organization over the years.
The team presented Walsh with a framed photo of himself and a plaque recognizing him as a founding member. It’s on the wall of the current building but, with an effort to find a new headquarters well underway, Diggins said the photo would one day grace the wall of their new location. The provincial EMO also presented a plaque to Walsh.
Diggins said the turnout of about 50 people was great, especially considering the poor weather.
“He’s continually served his province and community with an amazing dedication,” Diggins said. “He’s got a heart as big as all outdoors.”
Valley Search and Rescue’s current president, Ashley Perry, said Walsh has been active in the organization since its inception and served as search director for the bulk of his 43 years. Walsh is still heavily involved in training and searches on an ongoing basis.
“He’s an impressive man and he’s done a lot of impressive things running the organization,” Perry said.
He said Walsh has always cared for individuals first. His top priorities have always been getting the lost person out of the woods alive and the safety of his team.
“Once search and rescue is in your blood, you can’t get it out,” Perry said. “What he cares about is saving lives.”
Perry said the organization is looking for a new headquarters, as they’ve outgrown their current space. They’re exploring some options that “look promising.”