Volunteer firefighter honored for 50 years of service

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Canterbury - posted Tue., May. 10, 2011
Kalervo Ruuskanen with his plaque and trophy in honor of his 50 years of service to Canterbury. Photo by D. Coffey.
Kalervo Ruuskanen with his plaque and trophy in honor of his 50 years of service to Canterbury. Photo by D. Coffey.

Canterbury resident Kalervo Ruuskanen has fought a lot of brush fires in his day - 50 years worth, to be exact. And on April 30, he was recognized by the town for his 50 years of volunteer service to the fire department and the community of Canterbury. He was presented with a plaque and a trophy in the shape of a firefighter with facsimile leather boots, flashlight and self-contained breathing apparatus hanging from his belt, Kevlar gloves and uniform and helmet.

“It's correct in every detail,” Ruuskanen said.

Ruuskanen joined the force in the spring of 1960. The force was chartered in 1947. Ruuskanen is the first non-charter member to reach the 50-year milestone.

He was 18 years old when he joined. At the time, calls would go out to the volunteers through a phone tree. Three women in town were responsible for getting the word out and calling for help when needed.

“I’d drop everything I was doing and take the call,” Ruuskanen said.

He took over the family chicken farm in 1963. He had 11,000 layers, which took about four hours to collect eggs every day, he said. When calls came in, the chickens had to wait.

His most memorable call was when hurricane Gloria roared through the area in September 1985. The storm brought many trees down and roads were closed throughout the area.

“All the firefighters got together,” he said. “We were all farmers. We worked through the night to open up the roads for the town.”

Ruuskanen also served as an EMT for the town, taking one night shift regularly. “I was dedicated from 10 to 6,” he said. “That was my responsibility.” He was trained as a constable and can still provide traffic control when called upon.

Ruuskanen has lived most of his life in Canterbury. Volunteering was his way of helping out the town. “I’ve made a lot of good friends throughout the years,” he said.


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