CATTARAUGUS - With an upbeat mood and much lighthearted banter prevailing at their annual installation banquet recently, the Cattaraugus Fire Department seemed determined to put behind them the traumatic events of the past six months.
The program started with a few grave moments, however.
Wayne Stein, fire chief, and William Ellis, assistant chief, spoke openly about the pain and dissension caused within the organization when two of their number were accused of allegedly misappropriating funds from the Bell Jar Fund. They admitted they had been much too trusting but vowed to those present, "This will not happen again."
Pictured, from left, are Fire Police Captain Bob Polanski, Asst. Fire Police Capt. Wayne Harvey, Chaplain Mike Jones, Deputy Treasurer Steve Griffin, Chief Wayne Stein, 2nd Asst. Chief Marge Bradley, 1st Asst. Chief Bill Ellis, Pres. Lenny McGlynn, Sgt.-at-Arms Rick Ellis, Sec. Dennis Seekins, and Asst. Sgt.-at-Arms Jim Scott. V. P. Eileen Williams was not present for the photo.
Photos by Arvilla Pritchard
Cattaraugus Police Chief Don Veith and local journalist Arvilla Pritchard were called upon to make a few impromptu remarks, due to a last-minute emergency cancellation by the scheduled speaker. Coincidentally, both referred briefly to the company's recent troubles, assuring the firemen that the community stood behind them and needed them to heal their wounds and move ahead. Both said they felt sure the department would emerge from the crisis stronger than ever.
Guests included numerous officers and members of several neighboring fire departments: East Otto, East Randolph, Little Valley, Otto and Randolph. Cattaraugus was represented by Village Trustees John Bronneberg and Walter Gunther, Jason Opferbeck, public works superintendent; Greg Rogan and Veith. The support of all those who attended was much appreciated, according to spokespersons for the Cattaraugus company.
The evening got under way with the solemn tolling of the fire bell to commemorate the passing of four firemen and former firemen: Harold Booth, Leo Kulaw, Edward Malinoski and Kerwin Mowry.
In a touching ceremony that has become a banquet tradition, the firemen presented a single rose to the widows of fallen firemen: Rhonda Kulaw (Leo), Anna Mallaber (Herndon), Phylis Rogan (Bob), Marilyn Wasmund (Dave), and Dawn Weishan (Bob).
All present enjoyed a meal featuring fish, pork and turkey, prepared by firefighter Nicholas Rhinehart, a recent graduate from culinary school. He worked with the able assistance of John Jacobs, Derek France and Ashley Foster.
The program featured the swearing in of officers, not only for the Cattaraugus Fire Department, but also the Cattaraugus Area Ambulance Squad and the Firemen's Women's Unit. Veith presided over the installations, after which department heads handed out awards for outstanding service.