“A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE”
Another Letter to The Editor
“In Grateful Appreciation to “Rat” and Elaine Dearmon for Their Many Years of Selfless Service with the Semmes Volunteer Fire Department Serving and Protecting the Citizens of Semmes”
It can be a humbling experience witnessing ordinary citizens banding together for their community to set right an injustice….and humbling it was last night in Semmes as I looked around at the faces of the men gathered outside of the Semmes Volunteer Fire Station No. 1 on Wulff road. It was very clear from the mood among these gentlemen that they were determined to liberate these stations last night not only to safe guard the citizens of Semmes but, to honor the memory of a family and a man that they had looked up to in this community when they were just young boys. I had been asked to be there by Mr. Mickey Dearmon in order to provide photographic documentation of the conditions of the stations and any equipment that was found inside.
Called into service again by their ex-chief, Mickey Dearmon, these men rallied to his side after Mr. Dearmon worked tirelessly to obtain court documents granting him as acting SVFD Fire Chief, the power to seize both Fire Station No. 1 and Fire Station No. 2 back from Tim and Judy Hale, the former Mayor of Semmes. Both of these fire stations had been closed for service to the community since October 31st, when the Hale’s summoned the City firefighters to bring all the equipment to the two stations where they immediately changed the locks effectively locking up vital life-saving equipment used to safe guard the residents of Semmes. There were also concerns voiced among the men about rumors circulating in Semmes that the Hales and the SVFD board intended to “start up” a new volunteer fire department with Tim Hale as the chief and members of the board as new volunteers, all with zero or no fire-fighting training or experience among them.
As we all waited together in the gathering darkness and as the locksmith attempted to gain entry, I listened to the different stories being told about their experiences as boys hanging around the volunteer fire station with “Rat” Dearmon and his wife Elaine.
Growing up in a small rural agricultural community such as Semmes in the seventies and eighties, there was not much for a young person to do once the chores assigned to you by your parents were completed for the day. However, there was always plenty of mischief to be found if you were so inclined and if hands remained idle very long. Many young men worked with their fathers on their nurseries, or at home, but it became obvious from the stories shared last night that many were also drawn to the original fire station on Wulff road. Some shared that they began to assist around that fire station as young as thirteen or fifteen as Mr. and Mrs. Dearmon treated them as part of their family. The Dearmons assigned them tasks and put their idle hands to work effectively keeping them out of trouble and instilling in them a sense of what public service to others in your community really meant. As stories were swapped among them, more than one credited the Dearmons with keeping them out of trouble in their adolescent years and as they entered manhood they became a vital part of the SVFD serving for as many as for 10-15 years alongside Mickey and his dad.
It was not very long before entry was gained to both fire stations and the arduous task of inventorying the equipment and changing the locks began. There was a brief interruption as sheriffs arrived that had been called to the scene by Tim Hale. Mr. Dearmon showed them the court documents and asked that the Hales be served the documents the next day. He also requested that all funds and documents taken from the fire stations be turned over by the Hales to his possession as acting SVFD Chief. Tim Hale also briefly made an appearance but was informed by the sheriffs that the situation had evolved into a civil matter. There were no arrests made last night much to the chagrin of the Hales.
Mr. Dearmon stated at the end of the evening that he intends to enter into discussions with the new City of Semmes administration early next week regarding their joint efforts to provide fire protection to the City of Semmes and outlying areas. There may still be legal battles ahead for Mr. Dearmon in his fight to wrestle the SVFD operating funds back from the previous SVFD board but he remains optimistic that the Hales will finally do the right thing for their community and turn the funds over to him. If not, then it will be time for the all the citizens of Semmes to stand alongside him in court and support his and his volunteer’s efforts on our behalf.
That sense of “public service” learned so long ago by these brave men and the memories of “Rat” and Elaine who served the citizens of Semmes for 35 years was present in the station bearing their name last night on Wulff road. It is what united these men of few words to come forward and to take action to reclaim these stations for the citizens of Semmes and for me, being there with them was a truly “humbling experience”.