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HVFCo Auxiliary: Celebrating 50 Years

By K. Brown.

Have you ever wondered what the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company Auxiliary is all about? The Haddam Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary was organized in September 1966 to support the Haddam Volunteer Fire Department by providing refreshments during major fires, raising funds to purchase firefighting items, and to help in other ways. The first meeting of the group was held on October 24, 1966.

Mary Nork, current President and long-time member says, “What an industrious crew these original Auxiliary members were! The gals that attended this meeting and the prior organizational meetings became their charter members: Berniece Bertolini, Carol Brault, Hollis Burr, Betty Cernan, Madge Comeau, Lil Dudek, Janice Foster, Minnie Harlow, Linda Kellner, Susan Kingsland, Janet Klare, Mar-Jean Kuchyt, Mary Alice Matulevich, Carolyn Modehn, Sandra Nedobity, Mary Ann Nelson, Helena Nocar, Irene Nosal, Anna Mae Ogilvie, Carolyn Parmelee, Ruth Priest, Margaret Pytlik, Mary Ann Rand, Helen Roczniak, Helen Stepan, Beverly Watral, Mary Watrous, and Josephine Zwingman.  Many of these women gave many years to keep what was known then as the Women’s Auxiliary of the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company.  Two women, in particular, are still working tirelessly as active members to keep this organization going: Betty Cernan and Hollis Burr.”HVFCo volunteers xmas

30th Anniversary charter members -1996

30th Anniversary charter members -1996

Another endeavor was to arrange social events such as dances, Santa’s visits, and Halloween parties for the kids.  All of these events allow the firemen and families to have fun and keep morale up while still functioning under the seriousness of being a firefighter.  Mary says, “There would have been many a celebration that would have been disturbed by a fire call that needed to be attended to immediately.  The volunteer firefighters are a very dedicated lot.  I might add their wives would have to be as well.  The Auxiliary was not just wives back then, but women of the community who saw the importance of our firehouse family, and wanted to give back in any way they could. Our initial goals are the same today; the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company Auxiliary, still supply refreshments to lengthy fires.”

30th Anniversary picture - 1996

30th Anniversary picture – 1996

The Auxiliary helps with the occasional Open House at Company #1 and fundraisers such as the Chowder Sale and the Junior Firefighters’ Pasta Dinners. They also have their own fundraisers, such as:  Military Whist, Easter Flower Sale, Vendor Sale, and Boot Raffles.  Proceeds from those fundraisers go to their Scholarship fund, town fuel bank, and toys for Santa’s visits, and to the HVFC wish list.  Mary explains, “The wish list usually helps purchase equipment that the town budget doesn’t provide for.” They also donate to various town organizations such as River Days, Project Graduation, Relay for Life, and the John Bertolini Scholarship Fund.

The Auxiliary also sponsors a Red Cross Blood Drive every year in August. Nork says, “Our members make delicious sandwich fillings and desserts. We man the registration table, and serve sandwiches and yummy treats to those who donate blood. Not a fundraiser but just an easy way to help the CT Red Cross.”

HVFCo Auxiliary group picture (2015)

HVFCo Auxiliary group picture (2015)

The HVFC Auxiliary presently has 22 members, but membership is always open to anyone who is 18 years of age or older, who is a resident of Haddam, Higganum, or Haddam Neck, and feel they could support the organization and fire personnel in the number of projects and services they provide. Meetings are on the 4th Monday of each month at 7 pm at Station #1. If interested or for more information, email [email protected]

Memorial Day Parade - 1980

Memorial Day Parade – 1980

The Auxiliary marches, along with the Haddam Volunteer Fire Co., and the Junior Firemen, every year in the Memorial Day parade. Unlike some towns’ Memorial Day parades, Haddam’s parade is a serious event. It is all about honor and service. Nork says about the parade experience, “It is humbling and quite pleasing to be included as part of honoring our many town Veterans. The Anninos do a wonderful job keeping that day solemn and thankful for those who sacrificed so much.”

Memorial Day chowder (2015)

Memorial Day chowder (2015)

Also on Memorial Day, the Auxiliary sells their homemade clam chowder that the fire staff has made “in the wee small hours of the morning. It is a cooperative venture, but the brunt of the hard work of making the chowder falls on the Fire Co. staff.  The Auxiliary buys the supplies and ingredients.  We also provide ingredients for breakfast for those who put in the early morning hours in preparing the chowder, and the veterans who will be marching.” They have a long history of marching.  They used to march competitively back in the 80’s.  Nork says, “We actually came in first place one year.  We don’t take marching as seriously these days.  We can hardly stay in step on Memorial Day, but it is nice to see the community come out to cheer for our veterans.”

The Auxiliary is much more than just a group to join. Michele Oulette, member, says, “It’s really an incredibly special thing to be part of a fire department. We are a family and we support each other in good times and bad. My family and I experienced this first hand after [my husband] Steve passed away. The fire department was there for us in so many ways and they still are. You can’t even imagine what it’s like to know that your boys have 60+ Aunts and Unlces looking out for them, and that would be there for them at a moment’s notice. It’s pretty amazing and I’m so grateful for them and can’t imagine not having them in our lives.”

Present active members are:  Mary Nork (President), Candy Veazie (Vice President), Carolyn Schuler (Secretary), Donna Turnage (Treasurer).  Diane Andrews, Linda Boothroyd, Hollis Burr, Betty Cernan, Bette Dybick, Barbara Galloway, Marion Harlow, Elaine Jackson, Judi Jones, Fran Kosalski, Michelle Kowal, Lynn Lorenc, Bethany Meyer, Pat Morrell, Michele Ouellette, Tammy Schuler, Yvonne Sekscenski,  Alice Zanelli

To celebrate 50 years, the HVFCo Auxiliary has made a commemorative 16-month calendar, which starts with September 2016 (see article here). They will feature pictures of members and events going back to the early ’70s. These calendars will sell for $15 each. The calendars are available now and can be purchased from any Auxiliary member or from the Town Clerk’s office. For more information, call Elaine at 860-345-7755.

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2 Responses to HVFCo Auxiliary: Celebrating 50 Years

  1. Jeff Ogilvie

    April 14, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Thank you ladies for your long term support of our town. My mom would be proud of you all…..Jeff Ogilvie

    PS – Can’t wait for more chowder on Memorial Day!

  2. Mary Nork

    April 18, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you Jeff. That means a lot, your mom Anna Mae was a cherished member.