Our Oldest Living Member
 
By Life Member James Delawder
December 16, 2021
 

On November 11, 2021 the Brewster Fire Department held a short parade for Allen Michell to celebrate his ninetieth birthday. Just as the parade approached, he was jokingly told: "Hey old man, get out here!" The parade stopped at his house. In addition to a fire engine, the parade included the Ladder Truck, Utility vehicles as well as an Ambulance. Allen is holding the baby in pictures #1, #3, and #4 . Allen is the oldest living member of the Brewster Fire Department. He has over 68 years of service with the department. The parade surprised him. He said: "The parade meant a great deal to me."

When Allen retired as ambulance Captain, Chief John Leather was the Chief and future County Coordinator. John Leather, who rarely gave compliments, stated at a Department meeting: " Allen has done a splendid job!" Allen still remembers that moment vividly. He also mentioned Chief Bill Rieg. He said : "That big ,gruff, tough guy is really a nice guy when you get to know him. When I was ill in Vassar Hospital, Bill drove my wife there and back one day." When I visited him after Christmas, he was still enthralled by the parade.

Allen has also been honored for over fifty years of service with the Brewster Little League. Life member, George Hill has known him since George was a seven year old playing in Little League. Former Chief, Tommy Hughes still calls Allen up and says: "Coach, can you put me in?" Just by the query, he knows who is calling. When I asked Allen about Tommy's request he replied: " I always put him in because he had so much ability." My three sons played Brewster Little League ball which was under his leadership..

When I joined the Brewster Fire Department in 1976, Allen was the Captain of the Brewster Fire Department Ambulance. During the 1970's, 80's and beyond, ambulance calls were dispatched by phone from 7 PM to 7 AM, seven days a week. There was then what was called "a party line" of four phones in member's homes. When one phone rang, all would ring if they were plugged in. Everybody who answered any of the four phones could hear the conversation. One phone was in the Captain's home, another in the Lieutenant(s)' home and the other in a dispatcher(s)' home. Each week one of the four would answer the call and summon the duty crew. This prevented the entire fire department from being woken up in the middle of the night. Only the dispatcher and three members of the department would have to awaken to answer the call. For example, when Allen was dispatching, he would get the call from the Sheriff's office concerning the nature of the call. Concurrently, his wife Helen would be calling the crew as Allen was getting the pertinent information.

Allen's personal Duty Night was Fridays. His usual driver was Charley Fowler. His assistant in the back of the ambulance was Ron Stephan. Saturday night's Ambulance Duty crew included present day Commissioner and then dispatcher Gerry Schramek. His driver was Chuck Gallagher. My Ambulance Duty night was Tuesdays. The Wednesday night crew consisted of driver Joe Freeburn and attendants' George Hill and Tommy Hughes.

Shortly after I joined the department in 1976, I was able to go on some ambulance calls with Allen on Friday nights. Members frequently called him up to volunteer to ride with him. When I rode with him, I considered myself lucky. I especially remember my first fatality. I was the attendant that night working with Allen. It was a motorcycle accident in which the cyclist's brains were scattered on the roadway. I still remember the smell. Because of the way he handled this traumatic event (and me), I was able to continue going on ambulance calls. I shortly thereafter became an Emergency Medical Technician and later on a Brewster Fire Department Ambulance Captain for five years. Allen was one of the members I tried to emulate.

He taught me to stay calm on calls and to do the best I could for the community.. He reinforced the idea that no matter what I did, God had his plan for the people we serve. The Brewster Fire Department responds to calls when people are having one of the worst days of their life. We do our best, that is all we can do.

Allen has a quiet, subtle, dry sense of humor which is a sharp contrast with some of the other members of the BFD. It has been my pleasure to know him. He has been a quiet public servant and a true gentlemen.


Information for this article was gleaned from interviews with Allen Michell, Gerry Schramek, George Hill, and Tommy Hughes. Numerous pictures were archived by deceased Historian and Chief Ed Schneider.