April 18, 2014

Osborne retires after 60 years

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Lt. Lynwood Osborne (center) stands with his wife, Thelma, and his sons, (from left) Steve, Bryan and Greg, during his retirement party at the Williston Fire Department on Monday. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

Lt. Lynwood Osborne (center) stands with his wife, Thelma, and his sons, (from left) Steve, Bryan and Greg, during his retirement party at the Williston Fire Department on Monday. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
Framed photographs line the halls of the Williston fire station, depicting the department’s milestones—new stations, new fire trucks, major catastrophes, politician visits, group shots. Lt. Lynwood Osborne is in just about all of them.
“He was a part of all these milestones within the department,” Chief Ken Morton said, sweeping his arm along the hallway. “Through the thread of the department history, he’s been a part of it.”
Feb. 4 marked Osborne’s last official day with the Williston Fire Department. He retired after 60 years of service.
“How do you measure 60 years?” Morton said. “He’s been here from the time they used to bring water to fires in milk cans.”
On Monday, the department hosted a retirement part for Osborne—known to most as “Ozzie.” Family, longtime friends, coworkers present and former, town officials and even Gov. Peter Shumlin all stopped by the station to celebrate with Osborne.
“I’ll miss the guys at the station,” said Osborne, 80. “The best part is watching the new younger people coming up through and learning how to do things and watch them progress in their ability.”
Barbara Young, an EMT with the department and Osborne’s niece, has worked with him for 19 years.
“I’m going to miss him,” she said. “It won’t be the same without him coming in the door. It’s a lot of time to be given to a community. He’s been able to pass on a lot of knowledge.”
“He taught me everything I know,” added Young’s husband, Paul, former assistant chief.
“He’s always been the reliable one, he’s always the go-to guy to fix anything and the ongoing historical bank of data,” Capt. Timothy Gerry said. “He’s unreplaceable.”
Sitting at a table in the station, Osborne’s wife, Thelma—with whom he that day shared another special occasion, their 58th wedding anniversary—and his three sons reflected on the Williston Fire Department’s inextricable ties to their family.
“It’s kind of like being military brats, only we’re fire brats,” Steve Osborne said.
“It’s just always been a part of the family,” Greg Osborne said. “We’re very proud of him.”
Thelma Osborne said his work has been “very important” to him over the years.
“He took it very seriously,” she said.
The Williston Fire Department was founded in 1949 as a volunteer department. Osborne joined in 1953, when the station was located where the Williston Armory is now and housed just one fire truck—a 1930 Maxim pumper.
Since then, the station moved three times, acquired many more trucks and made technological strides. Osborne was there for all of it.
“It has changed an awful lot,” he said of the department. “We don’t have fires now like we did back then.”
When Williston was primarily a farming community, firefighters mostly responded to barn fires and chimney fires—many of them turning into full-blown blazes.
“Now we have a lot of false alarms, which is not a bad thing,” he said. “Better that they be false than real.”
Along with the fire department, Osborne has lifelong ties to Williston. He has lived in town all his life except for a couple years in Essex when he was first married and two years in the Army during the Korean War. He now lives in the same house in which he was born.
Osborne spent the first morning of his retirement working on his truck. He said he plans to relax for a few weeks, then will most likely find part-time work.
“I can’t sit and not do anything,” he said on Tuesday.
He also said he plans to stop by the fire station now and then.
“I’ll probably stop in sometime today,” he said with a laugh.

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