There were cheers and tears Thursday at the Gloversville Fire Department for staffer Helen Holland, who on the last day of her 34-year career walked into a surprise luncheon reception.
Holland, the department’s public safety secretary and a former dispatcher, was greeted by fire officials past and present and city personnel from other departments as she entered the station kitchen shortly after noon.
Chief Douglas Edwards, the sixth chief Holland has served, was able to assemble the multitudes while Holland was sent to the Police Department on a false errand.
Click here to read Gazette Online Editor Mark Robarge’s remembrance of longtime Gloversville Fire Department employee Helen Holland in his blog, “Off the Beaten Path”.
“I didn’t have a clue,” said Holland, explaining that she thought — despite her retirement and 55th birthday — it was just one more day when she was invited back to the kitchen to have lunch with the on-duty crew.
Cheers erupted as she entered the room and she was immediately embraced by her husband, Gary Holland, who gave her a kiss.
“It’s just so wonderful. … I just can’t help saying I’m so blessed,” said Holland as she made her way around the room to speak to attendees individually.
During her tenure, Holland said she has said goodbye to more than 70 firefighters, most through retirement. Tears came to her eyes several times as she spoke of her colleagues and mentioned a few who have died. Holland, referred to by some firefighters as the “real chief” and the department mom, was already on duty when every one of the current roster of firefighters was appointed.
“When you’re somewhere for so long,” she said, choking up, but offering up enough words to explain her emotions.
“It’s a family here,” she said. “People don’t realize what a quality Fire Department we have in this small community. … it’s one of the best,” Holland said.
Chief Edwards called Holland the “go-to” person on the staff and said she has every piece of useful and vital information about the department committed to memory. “Ask Helen,” has long been the standard advice.
“It’s a great way to recognize her for her many years of service,” Edwards said of the surprise party.
When Holland joined the department two years out of high school, the fire station was still on Third Avenue and Kenny Green was the chief. He was eventually succeeded by chiefs Charlie Weaver, Herbert Martin, Michael Shafer, Steven Santa Maria and now Edwards.
“She’s a fixture around here,” said Mayor Tim Hughes, who called Holland’s retirement “a great loss” to the city.
“We’ll miss her,” said Councilman John Castiglione, R-2nd Ward, who called Holland a dedicated employee who “is well respected by all who know her.”
Holland spent the first 20 years of her career as a dispatcher. That duty ended in 1994 when the county centralized all dispatching functions at the Sheriff’s Department. Holland then became the public safety secretary.
Holland may have retired, but she will not entirely disappear.
She has accepted a part-time position with the department for the foreseeable future. But, she and her husband are taking next week off.
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Categories: Schenectady County