Lodinews.com

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
|
||
Logout|My Dashboard

Lodi firefighters wish outgoing chief Kevin Donnelly good luck

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 12:00 am

Firefighters shared stories, traded friendly barbs and fought back tears at a retirement party for Lodi Fire Chief Kevin Donnelly on Thursday morning. Coworkers gathered to wish Donnelly luck, offer a going-away present and thank him for his two decades of service with the department. A gathering of about 20 firefighters, administrators and battalion chiefs sat in a circle around Donnelly for the brief ceremony. Flashing a wide smile, Donnelly joked that the assembly had something more sinister in store for him than just thank-yous.

"Is this a roast?" Donnelly asked, referring to an event where a person is the subject of insults and outlandish stories.

But while there were some lighthearted jokes passed back and forth between Donnelly and the group, the atmosphere was one of thoughtful reflection and gratitude. Engineer Paul Alvarez presented Donnelly with his retirement gift, a white fire helmet with "Fire Chief" written across it and a wooden ax to rest it on. The gift, purchased with funds raised by Donnelly's coworkers, was contained in a plain brown box without wrapping paper — a presentation that led to Alvarez getting gently harassed by the audience.

"I don't wrap," Alvarez said.

Division Chief Aimee Murry has worked with Donnelly for the past 16 years. Donnelly was her captain when she was a firefighter. When major fires were breaking out in Malibu in the mid-1990s, Donnelly, Murry and an engineer drove down to the area to help battle the blazes. Donnelly sang songs with Murry to help pass the time during the 8-hour, non-air-conditioned drive, she said.

"We were helping keep each other awake and sang a lot of country, even if we didn't know all the words," she said. "People on the freeway were staring at me because I was alone in the open-air cab in the back and it looked like I was just shouting to myself."

Despite playful comments from fellow firefighters, the avid San Francisco Giants fan said he wouldn't start rooting for the Seattle Mariners when he moved to Washington.

"I don't like American League baseball," he said. "I'll always be a Giants fan."

While the memories of Donnelly will last, his experience will be missed by the department, said Battalion Chief Ron Penix.

"Whenever you have someone at any level retire, the experience and expertise they have is gone," he said.

Penix said he was encouraging the younger firefighters to take a moment to talk with Donnelly and get insight from him while they still had the chance.

"Once it's gone, it's gone," he said.

Donnelly wasn't always on track to be a firefighter. The Michigan native moved West and went to high school in San Jose before entering the wine industry. He worked at cellars in Santa Rosa, repairing bottling machinery and grape crushers before moving to Santa Cruz to work in a food processing plant. It wasn't until after his 30th birthday that Donnelly began his firefighting career as a volunteer in Felton.

He soon found himself driving up and down the state taking tests at fire departments, looking to find one to join. In 1981, he started service with Lodi Fire and rose through the ranks. He was appointed interim chief in June 2009. Donnelly was named to the position full-time last January.

He is retiring from Lodi's department to be the fire chief in Redmond, Wash. He will start May 15. His last day with Lodi Fire is May 1. Murry said City Manager Rad Bartlam would recommend Ron Heberle for the interim chief's position during Wednesday's City Council meeting.

After the ceremony, Donnelly talked with the group about his search for a condominium in Washington that would be big enough for his wife, Cathy, and their one-year-old Great Dane. The dog weighs more than 100 pounds, and Donnelly said he was trying to find ways get the dog to exercise and potty train it in the smaller space.

"Let her go in the tub," Alvarez said, drawing laughter and disgust from the audience.

Donnelly said he hopes he's leaving the department in better shape than when he started. He added that while the fire department faces financial cutbacks and station brownouts, the problems are not insurmountable, and he commended the crew for its dedication.

"I'm very proud of all of you and to have been a part of this department," he said. "You have all been part of my family for the last 20 years."

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.

Video

Popular Stories

Poll

Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 202

Loading…

Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists