By Jeanne Sager
BETHEL August 13, 2004 Igor Maseyev will tell you he does it for the uniform.
Firefighting that is or at least serving his community as a member of the White Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
Maseyev is the newest member of the department his brothers in arms honored him just last week with his own badge and uniform and added his name to their ranks as an honorary member.
For Maseyev, its a dream come true.
A resident of the Crystal Run Village home on Crystal Lake Road in Bethel, Maseyev lives with several other adults with disabilities.
But becoming a firefighter has made him his own man Resident Manager Sharon Cron said his chest visibly swells with pride when he takes the steps into the firehouse on Route 17B.
His walk, his stance, his whole mannerisms, theyre full of pride, Cron said. You can sense him thinking, Its my firehouse, its my place, I belong here, and he does.
It brings tears to my eyes, Cron said.
Maseyev, 47, is a native of Russia who moved to the United States in 1982.
Because of his developmental disabilities, he moved into Crystal Run Village, an agency which serves Sullivan, Orange and Rockland counties two years later at 25 years old. He moved to Bethel when the home was built in 1997.
Maseyev has kept busy with cooking and music appreciation classes at Sullivan County Community College and work at SullivanARC in Monticello.
But hes always had an interest in community service primarily police and firematics.
Cron said it was the uniform the respect it generates, the responsibility it denotes.
When the White Lake Fire Department came to the Crystal Run house to run a drill a year ago, Maseyev didnt leave the firemens sides.
He was thrilled to watch the trucks roll in and all the hoses being pulled off the truck, Cron recalled.
Days later, one of the firemen returned with a t-shirt for Maseyev, a blue White Lake VFD tee with white lettering.
Maseyevs response sparked an idea. Cron contacted the fire department and asked if they could use an extra set of hands.
In April, Maseyev reported for duty on the departments drill night.
He quickly became part of the team when staff dropped him off for work in May, firefighter and Crystal Run Village neighbor Dick Morey offered to drive him home.
Now thats the way it goes Morey picks him up for fire department events and brings him home.
And Maseyev works side by side with the firemen washing the trucks and straighting up the firehouse.
Last week he was honored to be asked to don his dress blues and join the White Lake department in the Sullivan County Volunteer Firemans Association parade in Liberty.
Morey drove a convertible with Maseyev at his side waving to the crowd.
For Cron, watching Maseyev branch out, becoming a full-fledged member of the Bethel community, is wonderful.
Hes got this great friendship, this great bond, with Dick, she said. Now were not involved at all thats the mission of Crystal Run Village.
We love Igor and were here for him, but for him to have friends outside Crystal Run, outside Crystal Run staff, thats what we strive for, she noted. And through this, Dick has become a great friend to all of us.
Morey and wife Mary Rose have brought a cake down to the Crystal Lake house and visited with the other residents like real neighbors.
Its a real community friendship, Cron explained.
Its an important part of Crystal Run Village to give back to the community its as important as doing what the residents want, she said. This was perfect; we got to do that and we make a resident very happy.
And Maseyev holds a special place in the house now hes the resident fireman.
When Cron asks him to go find his fire department shirt, he tells her, I can do it.
Of course you can, she replies. Youre a fireman.
Yeah, he responds, his easy grin spreading across his face.
He comes back with his entire uniform in tow holding the hanger high so the jacket wont drag on the ground.
He shows each piece off like a proud dad the badge on the jacket, the belt, the white shirt that Morey said will be replaced with another short-sleeved dress shirt with fire department emblems.
Theres pants too! he points out.
Asked what he likes about being a fireman, Maseyev talks about the trucks, his Russian accent adding a ch to the end of the words.
He refers to the department members as my guys, my people, and admits he has a favorite Dick.
Morey said its nice to be able to make someone else happy for a change.
You take your blessings that you dont have his struggles, he said. You can tell its a whole new world for him.
He doesnt miss a trick, Morey noted.
When Maseyev saw that his honorary uniform was a little different, Morey explained his was special for a special fireman.
Everybody in the fire department has taken a liking to him, Morey added. After they got to know him the guys like to tease him and joke around with him I know he doesnt want to go home when hes there.
Thats the hardest part for both Morey and Maseyev when drill night is over and they head home, neither one wants to say goodbye.