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GE fire gets new board member, assistant chief

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Sylvia Crawford/Glen Ellen Columnist

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Good neighbors

This week I’d like to honor our entire Glen Ellen Volunteer Fire Department. There is no doubt, certainly not for me, that all of these folks are lifesavers, good neighbors, and people we all can – and do – depend upon. They do so much for us. I have a couple of ideas about what we can do in return. But, before I share that, one of the simplest ways you can show appreciation is by a short note of sincere thanks. That can mean as much as anything else. Truly.

I’ve received a few notes lately that warmed me entirely. Thanks Doug; thanks, Scott; yes, thank you Marcie; and even thanks to Will. Each of your responses elicited smiles, which is a lovely treat on any day. But those stories are for another column; for now, I want to concentrate on our much-admired fire folks.

Cascade of role changes

I received a great email from our Glen Ellen Fire Chief, Peter Van Fleet, recently. As he begins, “Lots of stuff going on at the firehouse,” and truly there is.

“Bob Wagner, our retired local veterinarian, was recognized for his many years as a volunteer firefighter and district director. Bob and Pam Wagner’s move to North Carolina left a vacancy on the fire district board of directors. Hal Weise, our assistant fire chief was appointed to that position by the board of directors at the regular meeting in December. Hal resigned from his assistant chief position to become a director. Hal served our community as a volunteer for 33 years and, I believe holds the record as the longest serving volunteer in department history.”

From this column and out to the community, we send grand congratulations to Hal for his continuing service to our volunteer department, now as a board member.

The company also recognized Bob Norrbom for his 40 years of service on the district board of directors. Chief Peter says, “We had his son Bob Norrbom Jr., a long time Glen Ellen volunteer and his grandson Mike Norrbom, a new Glen Ellen volunteer, stand up with him to honor the three generations of Norrboms serving Glen Ellen.”

These folks, who remain in Glen Ellen and serve us all so faithfully, embody the qualities that make our town so special. Many of the good folks of our town are here, not merely because it’s paradise, but because they choose to live where people care about one another and show that dedication through their volunteer efforts.

Referring to these dedicated longtime families, Peter Van Fleet continues, “I appointed Matt Atkinson, our battalion chief officer, to the assistant chief position and Rusty Sims, a fire captain, to Matt’s battalion chief position.

In January, the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars recognized Matt Atkinson for his community service as a firefighter in Glen Ellen. Matt will have completed 32 years of service to our community at his start date this year. Matt originally came to Glen Ellen as a ranger at the park. He retired from that job several years ago and became ranch manager for Benziger Family Winery.”

The veterans association also honored Kevin Berger for his service as an emergency medical technician. Chief Van Fleet admits, “We don’t quite know how to count Kevin’s service years. Although he started in 1976 when he was 16 years old, Kevin left the department to go to college and to do service in the Air Force. This year, Kevin, a Glen Ellen engineer, will retire from the Air Force after a tour of duty in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan with the rank of major. Always a volunteer, Kevin also volunteered in Iraq at the base hospital and on the fire department at his base in Afghanistan.” (Readers may recall my column mention last fall of the Reader’s Digest article about Kevin helping an injured Iraqi boy.)

“One of our fire family former volunteers, Scott Singleton, was also recognized at the VFW ceremony for his work with the Sheriff’s Department. Our own long time volunteer Nils Derickson was recognized by his employer, Cal Fire, for his work on two major fires and for his aid to an injured firefighter on another. At the Fremont Drive pallet factory fire, Nils took his dozer into the building and pushed flaming pallets away from the building; then pushed other equipment out of the fire’s path.”

Chief Van Fleet emphasizes, “I believe that structure was saved by his actions. Nils is a hero in Sebastopol for his dozer work on the Frizelle Enos feed store fire and on the Willow fire for hearing a radio transmission that a firefighter was down, locating the firefighter and putting her into the cab of the dozer. He carried her to where she could receive medical assistance.

Nils, a captain in Glen Ellen, is one of six Derickson siblings who were volunteer firefighters, two now retired from Cal Fire, three still working in the fire service.”

Chief Van Fleet’s closing sentiments on those heroic acts mirror my own, “Our town is blessed with people who expect so little and give so much.”

Honoring George Psaledakis

Among this grand group of helpful folks, George Psaledakis is a stand-out. This year, at the volunteer fire department’s annual Holiday Party and Awards Dinner, George was selected as the firefighter of the year. As for George’s reaction, “I was awestruck; absolutely speechless.”

George told me that when announcing this yearly honor, the chief doesn’t immediately give the firefighter’s name. He begins by describing the person’s behavior and actions. As Chief Peter Van Fleet began to describe the fellow who always shows up, even on those middle of the night calls, George began to suspect it was he.

Indeed, not everyone is eager to respond at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. But George does. Willingly, quickly, and always.

Regaining his voice enough to thank his fellow firefighters, George’s complete surprise at receiving this award shows how humble the man is. Same seems to be true about all of these good men and women who serve us in our Glen Ellen community.

Surfeit of ice cream expected soon

I sometimes find it hard to get the good news of our local firefighters’ accomplishments because they all tend to shy away from the news hounds. We don’t think it’s just because getting their name in the paper means that they have to treat everyone to ice cream.

The simple fact is, firefighters are most worthy of being the focus of good news in our village. It’s no secret that firefighters go into dangerous situations and face harm for the sake of all of us. We are thankful for that.

The lack of tragic consequences for our volunteer firefighters’ selfless actions is because of their excellent training and teamwork that has always been the focus of our local volunteers. We applaud them.

Glen Ellen blood drive

However, welcome applause and notes of thanks are, there is more we can do. Let’s start with the small act of giving just a bit of our lives for others. Our fire department was recently recognized at the awards luncheon on Feb. 12 by Blood Centers of the Pacific for hosting blood drives in Glen Ellen. Our next blood drive by our Glen Ellen Volunteer Fire Department will be on Monday, March 17, 2 to 6 p.m. at our main firehouse at 13445 Arnold Drive. You don’t have to be a volunteer firefighter to participate. They welcome everyone.

Building enhancement fund drive

Here’s another way to help. Our Glen Ellen Firefighters Association is requesting public support for their latest fundraising efforts.

Their current goals are two: enhance seismic safety of the existing facility at 13445 Arnold Drive, and provide an opportunity to improve firefighter response times by creating additional sleeping quarters in a second story addition.

This effort began in 2012 with a study of existing facilities. Preliminary investigations for both a seismic upgrade and the addition of second story were feasible from a cost perspective. The next component to coordinate is an operational study to determine how best an expansion will be staffed while minimizing any community financial burden.

The Glen Ellen Fire Department has had a long history of support from the community. GEFD is one of five such departments in the county that does not impose a benefit assessment tax on the fire district constituents. Funding comes from donations and the County of Sonoma General Fund only. GEFD is pursuing other funding sources, such as grants, to lower costs.

The GEFD’s goal is to raise over $1.25 million; this amount is based on a 2012 building study. Your donations will be most welcome. Send your contribution for the Building Enhancement Fund to Glen Ellen Firefighters Association, 13445 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen CA 95442. For additional information, contact George Psaledakis, Firefighter/Architect at 321-8663 or gp@psaledarchitect.com.

Committed to Glen Ellen

In addition to his 17 years of dedication to the fire department, George Psaledakis is also active in the community. He is interested in forming an ad hoc committee in Glen Ellen to parallel the efforts of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission. George is one of several citizens who wish to implement public improvements within the business core of our hamlet.

Meanwhile, at home, George devotes his time to his dear wife Nanette, and their son, Maxwell. George hailed from Massachusetts originally. He said that quaint Glen Ellen reminded him of a lovely little village back east, Dunstable, N. H. He happily moved here.

He and Nanette met in Petaluma where they were both architects employed at the same firm. At the time, Nanette had a home in Martinez. After proposing, George’s next question to his dear bride was, “Where would you rather live? Near a refinery, or a winery.” Can we call that one a no-brainer? You betcha. Ditto for preferring Glen Ellen’s weather to shoveling snow in New Hampshire … even if some of my dear relatives claim it’s worth it.

Since then, the happy Psaledakis couple and their son, Max, call Glen Ellen home, with nary a snow shovel to be found, I reckon. Max excelled at Dunbar and is now an eighth-grader at Altimira. In his fifth-grade year at Dunbar, Max starred in the annual melodrama, “Wrongful Doings at Woeful Ranch” as General Woeful. (We’ll have more news on Dunbar’s 2014 melodrama soon.) As of today, George tells me that Max’s current passion is Altimira’s horticulture program run by teacher, Dutch Van Herwynen, aka Mr. Van.

Way back in the day, when Max was just a little tyke (I’m guessing maybe 5) I ran into him at the Agua Caliente pool. Asked how to pronounce his name, he politely and articulately explained that it is Greek and you say it, Sala-dakiss. Made it simple, and made me admire the young fellow right then. I still do. And if he grows up to be anything like his dad, we will admit that admiration is rightfully and entirely due.

Local artists show in Sebastopol

Last week Sebastopol Center for the Arts opened their juried exhibit “In the Red” with a gala reception attended by many Sonoma Valley folks. Of the 460 entries from across the U.S., one the 76 selected artists is local Glen Ellen art instructor and fine artist, Jane Antee. Her acrylic on canvas piece is called “Zen Archery.” I’m looking forward to checking it out at 282 S. High St., in Sebastopol sometime during March. The show continues through April 4.

Jane shared that she’s “jazzed for our Sonoma artists,” of whom three others were chosen. Those folks include Sonja Bakalyar, Margaret Hatcher, and Kirk Hinshaw. Many folks in Glen Ellen are familiar with Kirk’s amazing collage work.

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Share your stories with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me @ Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before your desired publication date.