By Loni Ingraham, email@example.com
12:12 PM EDT, August 23, 2011
The "Walk of Memory" tucked behind the Providence Volunteer Fire Company station is far from complete.
But it's already full of stories, according to Garry Zour, administrative vice president of the company, which has served the greater Towson area and northeastern Baltimore County since 1947.
The 85-member company responds to more than 1,000 fire and emergency medical calls annually. "Neighbors protecting neighbors" is PVFC's motto.
Zour, 60, has been a PVFC volunteer since he was 16. "But I was hanging around the fire house long before that," he said, explaining that his father had been vice president of the company before him.
As it is with many of the volunteers, the fire service runs in the family, he said, noting his two sons are members of the company, too.
The Walk of Memory is just one of the projects PVFC has undertaken to raise money for a capital fundraising campaign the company began nearly five years ago.
The company needs $5 million to pay off the debt for improvements to the fire station, at 1416 Providence Road, and for its brand new Ladder Truck 297, which has a 109-foot ladder (the tallest in the county), and other equipment, Zour said.
"With the economy, we're way behind. People have been generous, but we've only taken in close to $200,000."
At this point, the volunteers are conducting their fundraising campaign one engraved brick at a time.
The company's new "Buy A Garden Brick" initiative invites citizens to buy a brick to pave the small plaza in front of the flowering plants next to the rear wall of firehouse. The memory walk is next to the public entrance to the station.
Bricks can be engraved to commemorate or honor a loved one or special individual, or mark a special occasion or convey a message. It's the donor's choice, Zour said.
The bricks come in four sizes, ranging from 4 inches by 8 inches to 2 feet square, with proportional space for engraving. The required donation ranges from $100 to $1,000, all tax deductible.
Foundation in families
Zour and his wife, Joanne, have donated a large brick in memory of their parents, "Mr. and Mrs. John Zour and Mr. and Mrs Philip Tumminelo."
"This marker is kind of a way to pay tribute to our parents," Zour said, noting his mother was involved in the company as well. She was a member of the PVFC Ladies Auxiliary.
Looking at the inscription makes him feel good, he said.
"My parents are buried in Nebraska, in the small town where my mother came from. I have an arrangement with a florist for special occasions, but I don't get back there to pay my respects that often."
Another brick is inscribed, "Fond Christmas memories!!! Santa on the fire truck, William J. O'Meara family."
Having Santa ride through neighborhoods on a fire truck "is one of the best things we've ever done," said Zour, who played him for a number of years. "It's our way of giving back to the community."
Another square marked "Mike and Diana Kernan, It all started here," was put there by the couple's children and their spouses.
"Mike and Diana met at the firehouse," Zour said."He's a retired city battalion chief who's been a member for more than 30 years. Diana passed away recently."
Years ago, "if she was working and Mike was at home, he'd run over to my mom's house and ask her to baby sit so he could go on a fire call. They were like second family to my mom."
There's a "Thank you for your service to Hampton, Ted and Lynda Thilly" and a brick marked "Susquehanna Bank."
Then there's "Mr. 'Bud' Midnight, Always in our hearts."
"He was my true, true bud," said Zour of Bud, his part Lab, part Doberman, part "Heinz 57 varities."
"We had him since he was a pup. We got him from the pound. They had found him in a plastic bag left along side the road. … I couldn't take him on fire calls, but he would howl when the engines went by.
"He was just 10 when he died last year, he'd had a stroke after surgery and we put him down."
Ceremony slated for Sept. 11
The centerpiece of the garden will be a section of steel beam weighing 510 pounds. A survivor from the World Trade Center in New York during the 9/11 terrorists attacks, it was acquired in April.
As a public service, Wirtz and Daughters, a Joppa landscaping and garden center, supplied a large truck and a driver to haul it to the fire station from a hangar at Kennedy International Airport in New York..
"This piece of steel," the bronze plaque on the granite in front of it will say, "is from the World Trade Center in New York and is a memorial dedicated to the 343 brave firefighters who gave their lives on September 11, 2001. ... We will never forget."
The attack may have happened in New York, but the fire service is a tight-knit organization, Zour said. "Our brothers work hand-in-hand."
"This is a tangible remembrance of the dedication of fellow firefighters, who so selflessly ran into the burning building as others made their way to safety," he said. "It will ... remind everyone of the importance of what we do every day, day in and day out."
For information about buying bricks, go to http://www.pvfc29.com or call 410-828-9029 and ask for a form to be mailed.
Providence Volunteer Fire Company will host its special ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 11, at 2 p.m., at the fire station, at 1416 Providence Road, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The public is invited. The ceremony will include the dedication of the beam from the World Trade Center for the "Walk of Memory" and the placement of the company's new Ladder Truck 297 in service.
Speakers include Battalion Chief Stephen Lancaster and Capt. Robert Murray, who were with units that responded to the scene of the World Trade Center shortly after the attacks.