TVFD honors Chief Kelley with bench

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Wed., Sep. 28, 2011
Town of Vernon Fire Department officials unveil the new bench, honoring former Chief Robert Kelley, at a ceremony on Sept. 25. Photos by Steve Smith.
Town of Vernon Fire Department officials unveil the new bench, honoring former Chief Robert Kelley, at a ceremony on Sept. 25. Photos by Steve Smith.

On Sept. 25, the Town of Vernon Fire Department dedicated a bench to honor former Chief Robert Kelley, who led the department for a term of 22 years, retiring in 2008. Kelley passed away on Oct. 4 of last year, after a battle with cancer.

Current Chief William Call, who served as Kelley's assistant chief for most of his tenure as chief, led the ceremony in front of fire and police personnel, family and friends of Kelley, and town officials. The bench and landscaped patio area are located in front of the Town of Vernon's Public Safety Building on West Street.

Kelley spent 45 years as a member of the Town of Vernon Fire Department.

“Through this portal into this station, one will pass this bench and know that Chief Kelley's legacy will live on,” Call said. “His passion and service to the town is legendary. He performed his duties, not for financial gain, but for a service that provided safety and security to all that live and work in this town.”

Call said Kelley had a “mystic insight” to managing the department, and was well aware of the expense of the fire department for the town.

“Chief Kelley was prepared, and proud in the knowledge that when the mountains of snow fall from the sky, when hurricanes pound the area, someone's life is eaten by the ravages of fire, or when a loving husband is in cardiac arrest, four words that everyone calls out are, ‘Call the fire department,’” Call said.

Making good use of the new monument, Call said he would use it to seek insights from Kelley. “As chief, when troubled, I will sit on this bench, smoke my pipe, and ask Bob, ‘What the hell do I do now?’” Call said.

Gay Kelley, the chief’s wife of 50 years, called the bench “beautiful.”

Mayor Jason McCoy thanked the Kelley family for his years of service.

“He was a pillar of this community that all of us remember,” McCoy said, highlighting the career that included assisting with the consolidation of the Vernon and Rockville fire departments and serving as the department’s financial officer.

“Through Chief Kelley's passion for life, desire to help others, and dedication to the Vernon Volunteer Fire Department, he served our community and town selflessly,” McCoy said. “I think everyone who has met Chief Kelley misses him and thanks him. The dedication of this monument is something that lasts forever, just like his memory, for all of us.”

State Rep. Claire Janowski (D-56th District) said that she was excited to see the bench.

“Every time I come to the Public Safety Building, it's great to see that a friend is there,” she said. “It's a great remembrance of the chief. I miss his presence here, and at the State Capitol.”

Call said there were several donations made to make the bench and its concrete pad possible, including work from Mancini Pool Decks, Inc. and the town's Public Works Department.

The Fire Department Association, Call said, felt that serving that number of years as chief was an “anomaly” and wanted to commemorate his service. The members formed a committee, and came up with the bench idea. Funds came from in-department donations, as well as from the association itself.

“They thought that a small garden like that would commemorate his service, and the rest of the department felt the same way,” Call said.

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