Petersham to honor retired fire chief

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 08-30-2023 3:00 PM

PETERSHAM – This Sunday, the town will honor the more than 30-year career of former Fire Chief Dana Robinson.

Robinson officially retired on June 30 after 35 years as leader of the department, which is served solely by on-call firefighters and EMTs. In total, he had spent five decades on the force before hanging up his turnout gear.

In an earlier interview with the Athol Daily News, Robinson said, “I’ve been exposed to the fire department my whole life. My father was on the fire department before me and he retired after 44 years as the assistant chief. Growing up as a kid we always had one of the red phones in the house. My mother was one of the red phone operators. So, it’s been something that’s been part of me since day one, pretty much.”

The Sept. 2 event begins at 11 a.m. at Petersham Town Common. It will include a fire truck parade around the Old Maid’s Mile—a one-mile loop that starts at the flagpole at the center of town and continues along West, Hardwick, and Spring streets—a short distance on Route 32, and back to the center of town. A release announcing the event stated that an assortment of Petersham’s antique fire trucks will be joined by another dozen from Petersham and surrounding communities. According to the release, the public is invited to join the parade “on foot, on bicycle, or by vehicle.”

Following the parade, a ceremony will be held at the town’s bandstand. A number of local officials, including members of the town’s Selectboard and state Rep. Aaron Saunders, will be on hand to honor Robinson. In the event of rain, the celebration will take place at Town Hall.

The town had intended to honor Robinson at the Fourth of July parade, with the former chief serving as grand marshal. However, the event was canceled due to a forecast of inclement weather. The main organizer of Sunday’s festivities, Lynn Scott, said that, despite the cancellation, it was important to the town to honor Robinson for his dedication to the community.

“Members of the fire department were very sad that he was leaving,” said Scott. “He’s been fire chief for 35 years and – whether they were younger members or older members – they wanted to do something to honor him for everything that he’s done for the fire department. Fifty years is a long time to be in the fire department and they just wanted to send him off with a nice retirement celebration.”

While Scott has been at the fore of organizing the event, she said, “Everybody in the fire department was there to help me out. My son and daughter are in the fire department, so that’s how I heard about the idea. So, I told them, ‘If somebody needs to chair this, just let me know.’”

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Robinson was appointed chief in 1988, following the retirement of Stuart Foster. His appointment came as the result of a vote of the department’s membership.

“There were three of us in the department who were interested in the chief’s job, and two of the three of us were serving on the Board of Selectmen at the time – kind of a huge conflict of interest,” Robinson said. “So, the three of us on the Board of Selectmen decided we would throw it to the fire department and let them make the decision of who they wanted for the new chief.”

When he announced his retirement, Robinson thanked the town for its generosity to and support for the department.

“The town has always been reasonable and never said ‘no’ to us,” he said.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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