By Jeff Gallatin
Firefighters are known for being like families and one Oregon firefighter recently sent a thank you note and gifts to the Bay Village Fire Department for taking care of her late father and other family members through the years.
Diane Shirley, a federal wildland firefighter with the Oregon Interagency Management Team 4, more commonly known as the Blue Mountain Team in the rural northeast portion of Oregon, sent a letter in September to Bay Village Fire Chief Chris Lyons which he read aloud to the council and audience at the last Bay Village City Council meeting. She also sent 25 fire department hats from her unit as “a token of my appreciation for the excellent service your department has provided to my family and the community of Bay Village.”
Lyons, who wore one of the gift caps while he read the letter, said firefighters often get letters, notes of appreciation and gifts for people for the service they provided. He wanted to get this particular letter into the official record of the council meeting.
“This one was special,” he said. “It’s from a fellow firefighter about her family and it’s just touching. I was getting kind of choked up reading it.”
Lyons said the letter arrived via the U.S. Postal Service, noting the letter is probably the one from furthest away that he has encountered in his career.
“I had no idea what it was or that it would end touching me as it did,” he said.
The letter begins:
“I am writing to express my appreciation for the numerous times over many, many years, that you responded to 9-1-1 calls…My father William Shirley suffered from heart disease and diabetes, conditions that earned him more than his fair share of ambulance rides to St. John West Shore,” she said in her letter. “You also assisted his wife Gloria when she suffered a ruptured aneurism that took her life. And his beloved wife Bethie, who endured a 9-month battle with colon and lung cancer. You transported her on her final ride when she contracted pneumonia.
I especially appreciate the last time you took my father to the hospital in January of 2012. He had fainted and fallen three times that day. Your paramedics finally convinced him to go to the hospital, saving his life. That allowed me to spend 2 more weeks with my Dad, the last time I would see him alive (I live in Oregon). He worked hard in a rehabilitation center to earn the right to return to the home he loved so much. In the early hours of April 28, 2012, he passed away in his sleep. The Indians won their game just hours before so I know he died a happy man. Thanks to the automated call service you offer in conjunction with the Bay Village Police Department, you responded to my father’s home one last time. The coroner called and notified me of his passing.”
When contacted by West Life, Shirley said her father had moved to Bay Village from Michigan many years ago. She had gone out west to go to college and ended up staying, taking jobs with the U.S. Forest Service.
“He was a salesman and good with people,” she said of her father. “He really loved that home and the community.”
As a wildland firefighter, Shirley serves as a resource unit leader, and deals with different fires and incidents than the Bay Village department does, but emphasized her respect for it.
“People often think of structural firefighters as men and women who rush into burning buildings, saving lives and property, But, more often than not, you serve as paramedics and EMTs who provide emergency response to members of your communities. Of equal value is the compassion and comfort you impart to terrified individuals who are either suffering or in pain, or are afraid for their loved ones. The latter left a lasting and highly positive impression on me and my family,” she said in the letter.
“I just wanted to let them know that what they do is appreciated,” she said. “It’s important work that helps a lot of people.”