BOTKINS — A husband and wife team were recognized by the Shelby County Firefighters Association for their commitment to firefighting during the organization’s annual banquet held Saturday night at the Palazzo.
Amid applause and tears of joy, Tim and Barb Siegel were named Firefighter of the Year and Firefighter Wife of the Year. This is the first time a husband and wife have won the awards in the same year.
Master of Ceremony Cameron Haller, Tipp City Fire Department chief, recognized numerous people for their various contributions to the firefighting community and presented them with plaques expressing their accomplishments. After those presentations were made, Haller noted it was time to announce the Firefighter of the Year recipient but momentarily stopped to acknowledge they had “forgotten something.”
“We recognized a lot of great people tonight, but before we announce the Firefighter of the Year, we’d better not forget the Firefighter Wife of the Year,” he said.
Haller introduced the pair — Tim and Barb Siegel — by intertwining their accomplishments. Starting with the wife and then the firefighter, it became apparent that both the awards were being presented to a husband and wife team and not two individuals from separate families.
“I was truly humbled, honored and very thankful to receive this award. It’s hard to surprise me, and I could not believe they pulled it off without me having any idea about getting the award, especially considering I was the guy in charge of the banquet and worked closely with everyone for three months prior to the event,” Tim Siegel said. “Another big surprise was my daughter Abby coming all the way from North Dakota to see us get our awards. Barb knew about my award and helped make arrangements for Abby but had no idea she was getting one as well so there were great surprises for everyone.”
“Wow, I never expected this,” Barb Siegel said. “It was a complete and total shock. I don’t know how I was selected but assume it was due to all the things I do for the fire department and the level of support I try to maintain. Regardless, I’m very honored and thankful to be the first recipient of this award. It was wonderful and a night I’ll never forget.”
The keynote speaker was Matt Beakas with Middleton Township Fire and Rescue from Waterville. The topic of Beakas’ speech was gratitude for all those who play a part in the development of a firefighter as noted by his opening remark, “Thanks for playing a role in my career.”
Beakas illustrated that any kind of support, even in the smallest measure from the most humble and seemingly insignificant individuals, can have a major impact on the lives of others, especially when delivered in the form of encouragement and praise for a job well done. That person in Beakas’ life was a high school dropout, a simplistic gentle man whose life was dedicated to helping others; that person was his grandfather.
“Granddad always possessed a heart to serve others,” Beakas said. “He loved school but quit to join the military when World War II broke out. He set his own desires aside to serve others and to serve his country. He laid my foundation of leadership and made sure I stayed on the right track.
“He was also there with words of encouragement and praise for a job well done when I finished my homework or read another book. The values he instilled and applause for a job well done started me down the road to success. I owe him much.”
As the years passed, others stepped up to continue that support just when he needed it, Beakas said.
“Over time, it was the continued advice and support of countless caring individuals that kept me going and gave me the information and inspiration I needed to grow in my field,” Beakas said.
Beakas used the analogy of a sponge to illustrate the accumulation of knowledge over the years and then sharing that with others.
“Eventually we realize it’s time to squeeze that sponge and use it as a teaching tool to put that wealth of stored information out there for other new sponges who are eager to soak it up; and so the treasure of one generation is passed on the next and invested for the good of all concerned and the value of that treasure grows with each generation,” Beakas said.
Beakas asked all the spouses in the audience to stand and after a warm round of applause recognized the multitude of ways they contribute to the bigger picture.
“We take this time to recognize the selfless attitude of those making the sacrifices at home,” Beakas said. “They are the ones who hold us together, keeps us in check and love us unconditionally, helping to make a safe environment for all of us. Thank you!”
Beakas told younger firefighters that “you are still in school” and encouraged them to adhere to a good work ethic and follow the advice and example of the seniors.
“They are the ones you need to follow,” he said.
He also recommended seniors in the group be open minded about growth in their departments.
“The kids have more to offer than you may realize – don’t be afraid of organizational changes. We must work as a team; that is our key to success,” he added.
A moment of silence was held for those in the firefighters’ “family” who passed on in 2019.
Approximately 140 local residents attended the 43rd banquet. Along with spouses, family members and friends, firefighters from nearly two dozen local fire departments enjoyed an evening of fellowship.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.