LEWISTOWN - Friends and family were gathered Friday evening in the Brooklyn Hose Company banquet hall, for a surprise retirement dinner for Fire Chief Bob McCaa.
Those gathered were there to celebrate McCaa's 20 years of service as fire chief. Personnel from United Fire and Rescue, Brooklyn Hose Company, City Hook and Ladder, and Junction Fire Company were there, as well as borough council members, Mayor Deborah Bargo, State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann, and several other close family and friends of McCaa.
Mann was the first to tell stories of his adventures with McCaa, including the first time he meet him.
Sentinel photo by LAUREN?KERSHNER
Lewistown Fire Chief Bob McCaa re-adjusts his glasses after being surprised by friends and family at his retirement dinner at Brooklyn Hose Company banquet hall Friday.
"My first image of McCaa, is when I wandered into the fire company, and here was this person teaching who looked like a nutty professor," Mann said. "He had on pants that were six inches too short, holes in his shirt and other mismatched looking clothing. A few days later I was being shown through the Fire Academy, and I was introduced to McCaa, who was the person who had been dressed like a nutty professor."
This was the first of many stories told, as well as many tears. All stories and memories echoed the same theme, that words cannot express what McCaa has done for the borough and for the surrounding areas. Bargo read a proclamation she had written and framed, in honor of his service. During the speech she spoke of McCaa's vast knowledge.
"He has worked with the borough in many areas," Bargo said. "Not only has he attended council meetings, but also finance meetings and other borough meetings. He has worked with us to share his knowledge on emergency services."
The mayor also recognized McCaa's effort to help those at Ground Zero in New York City after the 9/11 attack. Bargo reiterated the idea that McCaa was not only willing to help the borough in times of need but was willing to go where ever he felt he was needed.
After weaving a tale about himself and the chief, Bruce Trego, assistant administrator at the State Fire Commissioners office, said McCaa always had the uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time - no matter if you wanted him to be there or not. Trego also said he has worked with McCaa on many different levels.
"I appreciate that I have had the opportunity to know him and work with him, not only as a student, but also as a colleague," Trego said. "It has been an honor to work with McCaa. I have learned a lot from him."
Mann also said this about McCaa and added that if you could not learn from McCaa, then you could not be taught.
Fire personnel from United Fire and Rescue, Brooklyn Hose Company, and City Hook and Ladder, were able to keep the dinner and recognition a secret for three months. McCaa's family commented, saying they thought keeping a surprise would be impossible for three months, mainly because of all the people involved. The companies were able to keep the secret, and McCaa thought he was going to the banquet hall to give a presentation to someone.
"I am overwhelmed to say the least," McCaa said. "I never expected anything like this, they kept a good secret."
McCaa was emotional while the stories were told, and thankful for the presentations. City Hook and Ladder Captain Bob Barlett presented him with a plaque from the company. Barlett and his son, Ryan Barlett, presented him with a second, special plaque, to show their gratitude for all McCaa has done for them.
Mann finished his speech saying McCaa may leave for a little bit, but he always finds a way to come back.