By JOSH NEWTON
Members of the Tahlequah Fire Department were recognized for their service last week during the department’s annual retirement banquet.
About 100 people attended the event, including current and retired firefighters and their families.
Fire Chief Ray Hammons said the event provides an opportunity to honor those who previously put their lives on the line for the city, while also recognizing those who are still doing so today.
“We do it mainly so we can honor the firefighters who paved the way before us, who gave us the opportunity to have the career and the calling right now,” said Hammons.
“Whether you’re a volunteer firefighter or full-time, the passion for the job is the same. Over the years, we’ve grown, and it’s because a lot of guys before us paved the way. I’m very proud to have that in my heritage, and I know the rest of the guys are, too.”
Firefighters honored Bill Moore with the ringing of a bell, which Hammons referred to as the “last alarm.” Moore, who died last November, served on the department for 25 years and retired as a captain.
“The ringing of the bell is done in honor of any firefighter we lost the previous year, retired or active, but we also ring that bell in remembrance of all those who have already gone on.”
Hammons conducted a passing-of-the-badge ceremony with new Assistant Chief Ted Kupsick. The presentation of the badge is a decades-old tradition.
“When I was named assistant chief, it was given to me, and I was very, very pleased to give it to Ted Kupsick,” said Hammons. “I have served with him my entire career, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”
TFD Lt. Justin Hackworth, a 14-year veteran with the department, received the Nick Purkey Award, which was previously known as the Firefighter of the Year award.
In 2009, members of the department opted to rename the award in honor of the late Purkey, who had given 28 years of service to the city and department. Purkey’s family became the first recipients of the renamed award.
“Nick Purkey was one of those guys who you could always count on, so it’s fitting that Justin was given the Nick Purkey award, because he’s one of those guys you can count on as well,” said Hammons.
“I’ve watched him grow as a person and a firefighter. He’s a go-to guy. When you need something done, you can put it on his shoulders, and he makes sure it gets done. He’s truly a firefighter at heart, and I can honestly say as a brother, a friend, and an employee, he’s surpassed any and all expectations anyone could have.”
Firefighters also recognized Nick Perkins as this year’s Rookie of the Year. Perkins has been with the department for about a year.
“He’s done an outstanding job this last year in performing any task put before him, and I’m excited about seeing where his career goes,” said Hammons. “He’s got quite the ambition to be a firefighter. That’s really what he loves, and you can tell that’s what he wants to do.”
Hammons said the department has many supporters in the community, including citizens, businesses, and elected leaders.
“We couldn’t do this without those supporters, and we thank them and appreciate their continued support,” he said.
Check it out
Go to the Multimedia section of our website, www.tahlequahdailypress.com, for a slideshow of the Tahlequah Fire Department’s annual retirement banquet.