CLIFFORD TOWNSHIP PA – Since 1947, the Clifford Township Volunteer Fire Company (CTVFC) has been there whenever and wherever needed, serving and assisting residents and businesses throughout its home township and parts of Lenox and Gibson in Susquehanna County.
On Sunday September 24th, beginning at 1:00pm, this caring and committed company of firefighters will host a public dedication and open house in honor of its past and present members, while also recognizing firefighters everywhere. State and local dignitaries have been invited, and the community’s families and friends are also invited to share this special occasion.
“We’ve actually been planning this memorial for nearly four years,” said Phil Price, CTVFC board member and Lt. on the Ambulance Corps. “We wanted to get it just right, and this project couldn’t be rushed.
"Four of us formed a memorial committee to ensure everything came together as it should. The stone is finished and it’s standing in place. Now it’s time for a formal dedication.”
“The idea for the memorial actually started with local businessman, Jim Pettinato,” said Company Secretary Harry Phillips during a recent telecon. “He saw a picture of a firefighter’s memorial in Washington DC and was so impressed with it that he suggested we do something here. We put his idea on the table, and it just grew from there.”
Another local businessman, Paul Kochmer, also wanted to do something for the fire company.
“Paul’s a prior active member,” Phillips said. “He owns a quarry and had an exceptionally large piece of blue stone that he wanted to donate for a memorial. Paul was honored and happy to give it to us to create this project, while also giving it in memory of his parents, Joe and Rachel Kochmer, for their own long-time devotion to the fire company.
"Well, now we had this huge piece of stone, but we needed someone to cut it! So, Paul recommended Butch Coleman of the Endless Mountain Stone Co., and his firm’s Tony Neu did a beautiful job of cutting and carving it for us.”
As committee member and Assistant Chief and VP Dan O’Rourke noted, “The memorial was coming together nicely, but then we needed a good foundation to hold the huge cut stone.
Township Supervisor Dennis Knowlton runs his local masonry construction firm, and he stepped up to help us position the stone on its large granite base. Then our Assistant Chief Mario Savino brought in his equipment to dig the 5’ hole, coordinating his team to reinforce it with rebar and concrete. After everyone’s efforts, we finally stood the stone this past spring.”
“So many people played a very supportive and hugely helpful role in developing this memorial,” O’Rourke added. “It was quite challenging for us to create this. It’s really a unique, one-of-a-kind memorial -- it’s the only one of its kind in North East PA.
“As a result, it has really become a project of love and dedication and very much a community-wide effort,” O’Rourke continued. “Ralph Grecco’s stone company finished the stone capping, and decorative pavers were also donated and installed.
"The Mountain View Garden Club added the landscaping. Most of this memorial was generously donated by friends and businesses of our fire company. But together with the dedication bench, the flagpole, repainting and relocation of our company sign, and the decorative nighttime lighting we recently added, some of the funds collected through the years in a special memorial account have helped create a beautiful memorial area in front of our fire company.
"Over time, the pavers can be engraved by company members and the ladies’ auxiliary too.”
The figure’s large stone base can also be used for future memorial plaques. In fact, the first has already been put in place. “My dad, Ambrose O’Rourke Sr., was a member of Clifford’s fire police,” O’Rourke added, “and his was the first and only line-of-duty death in our company’s 70-year history … dad died on March 19th, 1972.”
Price noted that the upcoming CTVFC dedication ceremony will also recognize its newest rescue truck acquisition; following a short program, guests are invited to tour the facility and enjoy light refreshments.
For additional information or to contact the Clifford Township Volunteer Fire Company, located on Rt. 106 just south of Clifford, visit its website www.cliffordfire.com or like them on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Clifford-Township-Volunteer-Fire-Company.