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Vt. firefighter retires after 60 years

Monday, February 04, 2013, 6:24pm
(NECN: Jack Thurston, Williston, Vt.) - When the call for help rings out in Williston, Vt., one man has been answering for 60 years. Lt. Lynwood Osborne, or "Ozzie" as many friends and coworkers know him, retired from the town's fire department Monday.

"I really hate to leave, but I think it's time to go," he told New England Cable News.

When Osborne, 80, joined the fire service six decades ago, Williston was mostly farmland. He remembered that firefighters would get water to blazing structures in milk cans.

"We didn't have tankers back then," he explained.

Now, the community is one of Vermont's major retail centers. Big box stores, more traffic, and a population boom mean more calls.

"Very challenging," Osborne said of the department's need to keep up with the changes in Williston.

Some of Osborne's main duties in his 28-hour-a-week part-time job with the department have been maintaining the big trucks and driving them to emergency calls. Perhaps true to his calling, Osborne told NECN that safety concerns inspired him to finally hang up his helmet.

"I just don't want to take a chance of getting somebody hurt, if I'm driving and something happens," Osborne said. "When you hit 80 years old, things can happen."

Chief Ken Morton of the Williston Fire Dept. told NECN he believes Osborne is the longest-serving, regular-duty member of a Vermont fire department.

"I learned you can be dedicated to a job for a very long time," Morton said, describing the lessons he took away from working with Osborne. "And you can be dedicated to a job and many other things, including your community and your family."

On the fireman's last day of duty, Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt., stopped by for the send-off.

"You don't look old enough to be on this job 60 years," Shumlin chuckled, shaking Osborne's hand. "Thank you for your service. We're proud of you."

And "Ozzie" is proud to have served on big calls like the 1984 train derailment in Williston of the Amtrak Montrealer. The wreck killed five people and injured well over 100.

"I thought, 'Oh my god!'" Osborne recalled. "The railcars were every direction, on top of each other, twisted and mangled. It was quite an unbelievable sight to see."

While he won't respond to more scenes like that, the retiree has pledged to help out the department he loves in smaller ways.

"Definitely I will be back here to hang out quite often," he said.

But do not expect this hard-working Vermonter to ever fully retire; he told NECN he's already looking for a new part-time job.

"I just have to keep going," Osborne laughed.

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