Newton Falls – Last Saturday evening the parking lot at Roby Lee’s Restaurant and Banquet Center was filled with dozens of vehicles driven by firefighters and policemen. Don’t worry, there was no emergency. Rather, firefighters, EMTs, friends and family members from the Newton Falls Joint Fire District gathered at the hometown eatery to commemorate another year serving Newton Falls, Newton Township, and neighboring villages.
After a moment of silence for fallen firefighters, Jamie Zigler, President of the Firefighters’ Association, offered a prayer of gratitude for the meal and for the company present. Traditions at this annual event continued strong with a 50/50 raffle, door prize and centerpiece drawings, and a brief awards ceremony honoring squad members reaching various service milestones, from fairly new recruits achieving five years of service all the way to the recently retired stalwarts who marked over twenty, thirty, and even nearly fifty years with the fire department force. The ladies of the Firefighters’ Auxiliary presented the proceeds from last fall’s twenty-first annual Chili Cook-Off, proudly handing over a check in the appropriate amount of $4,343.43 to the men of Station 43. The money from the station’s largest fundraiser of the year will be put toward necessary fire department upgrades such as protective gear and equipment to help them continue their lifesaving work. Last year’s check purchased an inflatable rescue lifeboat which was on display at October’s Cook-Off and will be vital in river emergencies.
Guest speaker NFPD Chief John Kuivila kept his remarks “short and sweet” and referenced the train crash that shook the center of the small town only two weeks ago. He applauded the efforts of the local emergency forces – including the fire and police departments, the auxiliaries, the hazmat crews and the CSX workers – mentioning that “clean-up went as smoothly as it could go” because of how the community and neighbors across the county pulled together. “It’s great to see the relationship that’s been built and how it all works together.”
Almost proving his point of small-town togetherness, Newton Falls wasn’t the only community represented at the restaurant that night: in the banquet area across the hall, Lordstown’s police officers were enjoying a similar event for their department, and members from Station 16 in Braceville had dinner to-go so that they could cover the NFJFD station in case of emergency.
A sweet end to the evening which everyone could literally take away with them came in the form of customized candy bars, courtesy of the Auxiliary, which suggested that if one were to look up the word “heroism” in a dictionary, one would find next to it a rather familiar photograph: one featuring the men of Station 43.
“Heroism: n. fortitude, valor, bravery, courage, strength. See also: Newton Falls Firefighters.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.