By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY August 10, 2004 The 76th Annual Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters Association Parade was hosted Saturday by Liberty Hose & Truck Co. No. 2.
For more than a century, the Liberty Fire Department has been comprised of three companies founded between 1857 and 1901: J. C. Young Company #1, Liberty Hose & Truck Company #2 and Ontario Hose Company #3.
While the Liberty Fire Department was created for several reasons, it all came to a head on the night of February 15, 1857 when a professional thief named Levi Rogers started a fire to cover his larcenous tracks after breaking into the Clements & Messiter store.
The resulting blaze burned two other shops in addition to the store that Rogers set ablaze that cold winter evening. Evidence found at the scene led police to arrest the purloining arsonist who was later convicted and sent to jail.
On Saturday, August 7, volunteer fire departments from around the county banded together with their brothers and sisters from a few neighboring departments to step out in high style during the annual parade befitting a long and proud tradition of life-saving service to their communities.
The escort division was led by the Liberty Police, followed in line of march by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department and NYS Police.
Completing the escort division were the Liberty VFW color guard, Liberty American Legion color guard, SCVFA officers (John Cassidy, Gordy Frost, Chet Smith and T. Sprague), Liberty VFD band, Liberty VFD (led by Chief William "Rube" Smith), senior members of the department, White Sulphur Springs VFD (led by Mike Speer), White Sulphur Springs Auxiliary, Swan Lake VFD (led by Don Sherwood), Town of Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corps (TOLVAC), Liberty Elks and "Smokey Bear" (played by a local forest ranger).
The 1st Division was led by Parade Marshall, Past Chief Bob Sherwood of J. C. Young Hose Company #1 followed by the 143rd New York Volunteer Infantry (a group of dedicated Civil War re-enactors), Livingston Manor VFD band, Livingston Manor VFD (led by Guy Carlson), Livingston Manor VFD Auxiliary, North Babylon Fire Company, Grahamsville VDS (led by Tony Costa), Claryville VFD (led by Tom Matthews), Neversink VFD (led by John Banshish), Neversink VFD EMS, Jackson Hose Co. 3 band, Jackson Hose Co. 3 VFD of Nyack), Callicoon VFD (led by William Maxwell), Highland Lake VFD (led by Rich McKean), Yulan VFD (led by Daryl Barnes), American Legion Ambulance Service of Eldred, Lake Huntington-Cochecton VFD (led by Jason Kraack), North Branch VFD (led by George Conklin), Narrowsburg VFD (led by Craig Burkle) and Lumberland VFD (led by Charles Fallon).
The 2nd Division was led by Parade Marshall Bill Henkleman, Past President of Liberty Hose & Truck Company #2, followed by the NYS color guard, Monticello VFD band, Monticello VFD (led by Mike Mastoni), Youngsville VFD (led by Sherwood McGibbon), Youngsville VFD Auxiliary, Hankins-Fremont Center VFD (led by Walter Sipple), Protection Hose Company #1 of Jeffersonville (led by Kevin Connors), Jeffersonville Volunteer Ambulance Corp., Roscoe-Rockland VFD (led by Steve Hecht), Smallwood-Mongaup Valley VFD (led by Charles Kalinowski), Beaverkill VFD (led by Doug Cummings), the Broome Street All Stars (Rock Hill VFD band), Rock Hill VFD (led by Jodi Mitchell), Rock Hill Ambulance Corps, Hurleyville VFD (led by Chris Gibson), Hurleyville VFD Auxiliary, Woodbourne VFD (led by Bill Miller) and Woodbourne Ambulance Corps.
The 3rd Division was led by Parade Marshal Leon Killian, past chief of Ontario Hose Company #3 followed by uniformed members of the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department, the Walker Valley Band (Bloomingburg VFD), Bloomingburg VFD (led by Joe Carpenter), Bloomingburg VFD Auxiliary, Cottage Hose Company Ambulance Corps, White Lake VFD, White Lake VFD Auxiliary, Pine Bush VFD, Kenoza Lake VFD (led by Jim Finn), Kauneonga Lake VFD (led by Tim Blais), Woodridge VFD (led by Eric Ackerley), Fallsburg VFD (led by Richard Levine), Callicoon Center VFD (led by Don Kautz), Hortonville VFD (led by John Duffy), Forestburgh VFD (led by Andy Kozachuk), Loch Sheldrake VFD (led by Mitch Straus), Summitville VFD (led by Mack Wharton), Sullivan County Womens' Softball League float and be-leathered members of Rolling Thunder Chapter 4, a group supporting veteran's rights and MIA/POW issues.
In his introduction to the 76th Annual SCVFA Parade souvenir booklet, William "Rube" Smith, chief of the Liberty Joint Fire District, said, "Day or night, on a breezy summer day or in the middle of a blizzard, the volunteers who comprise our local fire departments are always prepared to put themselves in harm's way to protect our community's families, homes and businesses . . . In Liberty, our dedicated firefighters are on the front line, delivering skilled and caring service on which our excellent reputation was earned."
Over the years Past Chief and 2nd Division Parade Marshal Bill Henkelman has worn many hats with the Liberty VFD: secretary, treasurer, vice president and four terms as president.
"You name 'em, I've had 'em," he said proudly.
As a 41-year member of the local department, the 80-year old veteran of the local fire service said he joined because he thought firefighting would be interesting and give him something worthwhile to do for his community.
"You're doing public good, that's all there is to it," said Henkelman.
His most memorable blaze?
"The Zalkins Fire on Main Street about 25 years ago when all those people died," recalled Henkelman. "We had one heck of a job getting people out.
These things happen, and when they do, you've just got to bear with them . . . you can't do anything about it except fight them," he added.
Jack Reuss is a veteran firefighter with the Monticello VFD.
You join to help out the community," said the captain of the Monticello Fire Police.
In the summer of 1979, he helped battle the Laurels Country Club Fire at the old hotel on Sackett Lake.
"We were there for 30 hours and we lost the whole place, it went down to the floor," he said. "We got calls from Port Jervis, and they said they could see the smoke from there I'll never forget that one."
Richard "Dick" Martinkovic joined the Liberty VFD in 1970.
After working his way through the ranks from rescue captain to president of Hose Co. #2, Martinkovic is currently in his second year as Sullivan County fire coordinator.
"It's a great honor to have the annual SCVFA Parade in Liberty, my home department," he said.
Asked when he joined the local fire district 24 years ago Chief Rube Smith replied, "I'm a community helper, and I love to help in any way I can."
Starting a few minutes after midnight of the eve of the 76th Annual SCVFA Parade, the guys and gals from Liberty VFD had their hands full before the parade kicked off, they responded to half a dozens call.
Moments after the end of the parade, as folks were relaxing at a carnival set up in back of the elementary school, the emergency tones sounded and they were called out to assist in a search for a missing person.
As luck would have it, the lost person turned up safe and sound, and the local volunteer fighters returned to station to await the next call for help.