Forty years ago donations from Local 2687 made Christmas a little brighter for a Hamden family. The five gentlemen in the photo, all future members of the HFRA, served long careers with the HFD. Johnny Longo and Jimmy Koutsopolos were both on Platoon 4 at Station 4 at the time. John Corbett served as Local 2687's first president from 1979 through the last day of 1992. Newly promoted Lt. Jim Leddy went on to lead the department 21 years later until his 2006 retirement.
We often noted that department and HFRA Chaplain Rev. Sanderson was the only regular member of the HFRA who was not actually retired. The Rev, still our chaplain, retired a couple of years ago as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church. He's doing fine now, having returned home recently from Wallingford's Regency House after breaking his hip earlier this year (see posting below).
The Hamden Chronicle, Wednesday, December 30, 1981
Saturday, January 1, 2022, marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of Hamden firefighter Alfred Ramelli, who was stricken while on duty a week earlier on Christmas Eve. Firefighter Ramelli was a 23-year veteran of the Department. His son, Ray, joined the Hamden Fire Department in January 1970 and served for 30 years. Ray passed away in August 2020.
December 1939 - Hamden Town Hall's annual Christmas decorations are up. This is a tradition that has lasted decades. The "HAMDEN" neon sign at the roof's edge was installed for the Hamden Sesquicentennial, celebrated three years earlier. The sign remained a fixture on the front of the town hall well into the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
December 1947 - A real sense of postwar hope and optimism may have been responsible for the somewhat glitzier decorations on Memorial Town Hall this year, which included Santa and his team. "Rudolph" would join two years later thanks to Gene Autry, but we don't think he ever appeared at the town hall. (Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
The Hamden Chronicle, Thursday, December 23, 1976 (Enlarge)
1976 was a pivotal year for the Hamden Fire Department. The introduction of Advanced Life Support EMS with the certification of the department's first eight paramedics was the start of a new era in Hamden's public safety.
In April, a second rescue unit was placed in service at Station 2. The department's six-year old aerial ladder truck remained at Station 3, and the 18-year old aerial ladder truck moved from Station 2 to the new annex at Station 5 that was paid for by the volunteer company that built the station in 1925.
For the first time in two years department strength was at 100%, with 120 line personnel in addition to the Chief, Fire Marshal, Dep. Chief Training Officer, and Superintendent & Asst. Supt. of Alarms and Apparatus.
This was quite a contrast to today's five-figure call volume, with line personnel numbering 28 fewer firefighters when at full strength than in 1976 - and 15 vacancies at the present time.
(December 16th) - At its monthly meeting yesterday evening, the Hamden Board of Fire Commissioners promoted Capt. Adam Barletta to the rank of battalion chief. He replaces retired B/C John Spencer, who retired last month after nearly 35 years on the job, the last nineteen as battalion chief of Platoon 1.
Capt. Barletta is son of the late Margaret "Marty" Barletta and retired fire marshal and former HFRA president Mark Barletta, who is flying up for tomorrow's swearing-in ceremony from his home in Florida.
As always, retirees are invited to attend the ceremony, which will take place tomorrow (Friday), December 17th, at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Council chambers at Memorial Town Hall. Masks must be worn. The website will post photos of the event later on Friday.
(December 18th) - The above provides a perfect segue into yesterday's swearing-in ceremony at Hamden's Memorial Town Hall, which took place exactly six years to the day after Barletta's swearing-in as captain on December 17, 2015, when the above photo was taken.
Dozens of active and retired department members gathered in the town hall rotunda to witness twenty-one-year department veteran Adam Barletta being sworn in as the 7th chief officer since 1942 to command Platoon 1, when newly elected Town Clerk Karimah Mickens administered the oath.
Town Clerk Mickens administers the oath (Enlarge)
Dad pins it on (Enlarge)
Among the department retirees was Battalion Chief Barletta's dad, retired Hamden Fire Marshal Mark Barletta, who proudly pinned on the B/C's new badge as Mayor Lauren Garrett and Chief Gary Merwede looked on. The elder Barletta was sworn in as Deputy Fire Marshal one day shy of 21 years earlier.
In remarks before the crowd, Chief Merwede noted, "During this unprecedented time of rebuilding the leadership of the Hamden Fire Department after recent retirements, it is important to recognize that experienced fire officers like Adam will have the opportunity to shape our department and lead it into the future." Barletta fills the vacancy created when B/C John Spencer retired last month after nearly 35 years on the job, the last 19 as battalion chief.
In addition to the battalion chief's vacancy filled by B/C Barletta, other 2021 retirements will soon result in the promotions of five new captains and seven new lieutenants, a truly unprecedented opportunity for advancement.
Immediately after the swearing-in, Adam was flanked by Chief Merwede, Adam's girlfriend Beth, his son Robert, his dad Mark, and Mayor Lauren Garrett (Enlarge)
Newly-retired Platoon 1 B/C Spencer with the new guy (Enlarge)
Chief Merwede and Mayor Garrett
Chief Merwede began his introductory remarks with an announcement that should warm the hearts of all department members - active and retired:
"Before we begin, for those who may not have heard, I was very pleased this week to have been called by the Mayor when she delivered the news that Hamden will receive state funding toward building a new and modern Station 2 - millions of dollars invested in the fire department infrastructure. A tremendous win for our department, and more importantly the taxpayers we are sworn to protect. There are some retirees here today who worked their entire careers waiting for this news, and it is very exciting indeed." Amen!
The 97 members of the HFRA applaud this truly wonderful news! See the article below . . .
(December 11) - On this date in 1927, the Hamden Fire Department experienced it's first line of duty death when Centerville Co. 4 volunteer Firefighter Edward Meegan died of injuries inflicted the day before when he was thrown from Engine 4 in a freak accident while responding to what turned out to be a false alarm in Highwood.
CLICK HERE to read how the Hamden Fire Retirees Assn. learned of this (incredibly) almost forgotten tragedy when a 1930 news clipping citing the man's LODD was found among hundreds of clippings donated to the HFRA a few years earlier by Honorary Member Chan Brainard.
Mayor Scott Jackson, Chief David Berardesca, and dozens of active and retired career and volunteer department members paid a formal tribute to Ff. Meegan in a somber Government Center ceremony on the 85th anniversary of the alarm that took his life.
(Dec. 10, 2021) - Today marks the 125th anniversary of Hamden's first organized firefighting force, Pioneer Hose Company No. 1, which was organized on December 10, 1896.
CLICK HERE for numerous photos and a 1950 article on the history of the Highwood volunteers, written by legendary Hamden Chronicle editor Francis "Bud" O'Connor when some of the company's 19th century organizers were still living and could provide their firsthand accounts.
(Dec. 7, 2021) - Eighty years ago today, the United States was drawn into the Second World War when Japan launched a surprise attack on American naval forces and army installations stationed at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian territory. The U.S. declared war on Japan the next day. Three days later Germany declared war on the U.S. CLICK HERE to read about how the Hamden Fire Department prepared for the possibility of hostilities coming to the east coast.
Governor Lamont: Flags Lowered To Half-Staff in Remembrance of Robert Joseph Dole
(December 5 - HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that – in accordance with a proclamation from President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. directing flags to be lowered throughout the country as a mark of solemn respect for Robert Joseph Dole – he is directing U.S. and state flags in Connecticut to fly at half-staff beginning immediately until sunset on Thursday, December 9, 2021.
Accordingly, since no flag should fly higher than the U.S. flag, all other flags, including state, municipal, corporate, or otherwise, should also be lowered during this same duration of time.
“Bob Dole was a leader from a bygone era, one where country and public service came before all else,” Governor Lamont said. “He served his home state of Kansas and our great nation, both as a soldier in the U.S. Army and as an elected official, for nearly six decades of his impressive 98 years with us. His most notable years were as a leader of the U.S. Senate and the Republican nominee for the presidency in 1996. His character and love of our nation’s democratic values were unimpeachable. This country would be better off if it had more leaders like Bob Dole who put country over party at the helm. He will be missed by people on both sides of the aisle. Annie and I send our condolences to his family.”
Tom Doherty, Chick Manware, the photographer, and the Rev. offered each other a four-way toast (several times, in fact)
THE REV IS ON THE MEND
HFRA and department Chaplain Owen Sanderson, retired pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, broke his hip recently and was hospitalized for a hip replacement. Now, in a physical therapy program aimed at getting him walking again and getting him home again real soon, the Rev is in relatively good spirits but admits that he'd rather be somewhere else.
Three members of the Association's Sunshine Committee visited Rev. Sanderson Thursday at Regency House in Wallingford. To raise his "spirits" even further, they brought along a little "libation" to further cheer him up. A good time was had by all.
The hour long visit was a tonic, not only for the nearly 90-year old retired minister, but also for the Sunshine boys. We learned a lot about the Rev's family of origin and his formative years, which were marred by the death of his little sister in a fire when he was about eight years old, and the tragic loss of his 38-year old dad in an auto accident a short time later.
During their adolescence, the Rev and his brother started a window washing business in their Ohio hometown of Sylvania, five miles outside the center of Toledo, where they joined the volunteer fire department. The chief of that department had been been nationally recognized years earlier for his heroic lifesaving efforts in the Sanderson house fire. And, as many of us know, it was that horrendous event that steered Owen Sanderson toward the fire service. His affiliation with the Mix District Volunteer Fire Company alllowed him to be one of very few Connecticut fire department chaplains who was actually an active firefighting member.
We wish our good friend, who was always there for us, a speedy recuperation, with a fervent hope that he will be back at his home in Benchmark in time for Christmas. Cards may be sent to Rev. Owen Sanderson at Regency House, 181 E. Main Street, Wallingford, CT 06492. See you again soon, Rev!
(December 1, 2021) - Last Monday, in the Legislative Council chambers at Hamden's Memorial Town Hall, a reception was held to honor and say "farewell" to nearly one-tenth of Hamden Fire Department personnel, who are newly retired as of this morning. Scores of department members, family, friends, and about 1/5 of the HFRA's 80+ membership attended (90+ as of today).
In remarks before the crowd, Chief Gary Merwede observed with a certain degree of poignancy, "To each and every one of you, thank you for your years of service, for your dedication to this department and the citizens of Hamden. You have each contributed your best in your own way, and this department is better because of your service. You will be missed."
He also noted that the next retirement dinner, the first since 2019 because of COVID, "will be a record breaker." Indeed, this number of retirements in a single month is a record, topping the previous record breakers of June 2006, when seven retired, and June 1993 when five retired.
The members of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association also extend our thanks to our former colleagues for their service to the department and to the Town. We welcome them into our Association and hope their years of retirement are long and happy ones.
L-R: Chief Gary Merwede, B/C John Spencer, Capt. Bernie Amatrudo, Ff. Mike DeLine Jr., Asst. Chief Charles Lubowicki, Ff. Kim Talmadge, Insp. Paul Turner, Capt. Ed Evers, and Lieut. Jay Matthews (Enlarge)