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The Weather Network
Feb. 18, 2019 | Monday
Local News
A matter of commitment: Frank Pearson's three decades as a volunteer firefighter
Frank Pearson, retired volunteer firefighter of 32 years. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Thirty years as a volunteer firefighter in St. David’s meant a lot of late nights and missed family moments for Frank Pearson.

But he has no regrets.

“I’ve missed a number of family functions that you get called away from. Christmas dinners, family outings, it disrupts a lot of that,” says Pearson, 67, who has now retired from Station 3.

Those late-night emergencies? “That’s one thing I don’t miss, the calls in the middle of the night. I know my wife doesn’t miss that one bit.”

He says he couldn’t have done any of it without the support of his wife, Barb Pearson. “My wife has supported me for 30 years doing that.”

He signed up to be a volunteer firefighter to help his community, so all the hard work never felt like a burden. It was about commitment.

“It’s giving back to your community, I’ve lived here most of my life, I enjoy this community. You only get out of it what you put into it. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life,” he says.

“That’s why you do it, that’s why you’re here -- to help people.”

As a volunteer, he still needed to pay the bills. He worked as a construction superintendent for a local general contractor, quickly advancing to a supervisory role.

As with his career in construction, Pearson worked his way through the ranks at the fire department over the years. After securing positions as captain and then assistant district chief, he spent the last seven years as district chief.

“My mother always said when I was a young guy, there were three things I wanted to do: I wanted to be a farmer, I wanted to be a carpenter and I wanted to be a fireman. By trade I’m a carpenter. I worked in the construction industry, got my ticket early on, and then moved into the supervisory end of things.

I tried farming for three years, found out that wasn’t really what I wanted to do.”

He was asked to come on board as a volunteer firefighter once before, but he wasn’t yet ready to make the commitment. It wasn’t until he was coming home from his son’s hockey tournament in 1986 with Bill Harber, now co-owner of Ravine Winery, that he decided he could put in the time. It’s been a part of who he is ever since.

Harber says Pearson’s knowledge base and background in construction combined with his willingness to be a part of the community made him a good fit for a position with the fire department.

“It struck a chord with him, it’ll never leave him. He’s a person you want to follow. He had all the discipline for organizing and getting jobs done; he’s just been a great person through the years.”

Pearson says he finally made the decision to join because he wanted to give back.

It was a role that challenged and changed him, he says. There were some not-so-good moments, but he wouldn’t go so far as to call them bad. And the good moments always outweighed the no-so-good.

“Children, rescues with children. Death. We see a lot of stuff that most people don’t see in their lifetime. Car accidents are devastating, some of them. And being in a small community it can be people that you know, which makes it a little more difficult sometimes.

“One of my first accidents on the highway was a fatality. You remember that, you remember that vividly. Even 30 years later, you remember that night. I won’t say that we become immune to it, it affects everyone differently. But the good times definitely outweigh the not-so-good.”

When asked about the good moments, he lit up, “Oh yes, there’s lots of those.”

Recalling moments bringing people back from near death and emerging himself into helping the community, he says the positive times kept him going.

Even after retirement, Pearson carries a pager, always listening.

“As I say, it’s a way of life. You never lose that. You’re always interested in what’s going on.”

He is a part of a new support unit that assists firefighters during major calls. An older firetruck has been converted into a mobile rehabilitation station. Pearson says they set up on the scene in case they’re needed in extreme cases. Along with a fellow retired firefighter, he maintains the station, providing aid to those who need to recover from dehydration, heat exhaustion and to bring down their temperatures.

He’s happy to be a part of the unit. “It keeps me involved a bit.”

Inspired by other firefighters, he says it’s inevitable that good camaraderie is built with the guys, working so close together. Stressing the importance of the commitment again, Pearson says he values the dedication of everyone in the department.

“Seeing the commitment from the guys is inspiring and rewarding. It’s inspiring to see how much everyone is willing to give to do this. It’s the commitment.”

Inspiration comes from everywhere.

“Outside of the firehall, my grandchildren inspire me. They’re a big part of my life right now.”

Having fully retired, from his career in construction and as a volunteer firefighter, he finally has time to rest, travel with his wife and spend more time for family — and their five grandchildren.

“My wife and I like to travel. My oldest son is a marathon runner, so we like to follow him around the world running marathons.”

Even after retirement, Pearson remains committed to community involvement and putting aside time for others.

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