By Prescott Nadeau
Special to the Observer
When Kathleen Langlais struck up a conversation with Williston firefighters during a memorial service for longtime firefighter Herbert Goodrich in June, she had no idea what it would blossom into.
Langlais learned that during Goodrich’s service, Williston firefighters needed to borrow a bell from a neighboring department for what is known as the “last call ceremony.”
After discussing it with a few of her friends, she decided to start a fundraiser to purchase a bell for the firefighters. Five weeks later, a group of about 10 residents of senior housing communities Falcon Manor and Eagle Crest, as well as a representative from 802 Property Management and the Dousevicz family, arrived at the fire station and presented Fire Chief Ken Morton with a check for $1,500.
Langlais said that she put signs up around the two neighbohoods and within hours had donations coming in — $1, $10, even $100 donations. 802 Property Management compounded the residents’ generosity by offering to add $500 to whatever was raised.
When Chief Morton found out how much money was raised, he was stunned.
“The generosity of these people is just wonderful,” he said.
Once purchased, the bell will be mounted on a stand and placed in a prominent location at the firehouse for all visitors and firefighters to see. A dedication plaque was also presented to the chief.
The “last call bell” is used during funeral and memorial services to deliver final honors to firefighters who have died. This tradition dates as far back as the 1860s when the New York City Fire Department informed the rank and file of the death of Abraham Lincoln. Today, the Williston Fire Department uses the bell during it annual Sept. 11 ceremony as well as any time a former firefighter service is requested. The ceremony is a solemn yet poignant tribute for their service to the community.
Prescott Nadeau is a senior firefighter and public information officer for the Williston Fire Department.