Members of the Level Volunteer Fire Company gathered Saturday for their annual awards banquet to honor those who had done "their Level best" to protect the community over the past year – and during the past 60 years.
Residents of the area around the small Harford County village of Level, snuggled in the rural areas between Churchville and Havre de Grace, got together in February and March of 1953 to form a community volunteer fire company, according to a history posted on Level's website.
"It's just hard to imagine," charter member Joe Worthington recalled, standing in the fire station's vehicle bay, surrounded by a variety of trucks and other modern-day firefighting and rescue apparatus.
"The first meeting we had, nobody knew what to do," he joked
Worthington, who served as fire chief for 13 years, and fellow charter member Kenneth Starr received special honors from the fire company Saturday, as well as state and county officials who represent Harford County.
Worthington recalled when the company purchased its first fire truck.
"It wasn't much of a truck, but we had to have a truck," he said while standing with his wife, Margaret – a long-serving member of the Ladies Auxiliary, who was also honored Saturday – in the vehicle bay. "It's great to see so many people and this kind of equipment; man, it's almost unreal!"
Margaret Worthington remarked: "Keep on doing things for the community, taking care of everybody; that's the main thing!"
The company was known as the Community Volunteer Fire Company until it was renamed Level Volunteer Fire Company Inc. in 1973, according to the website.
The Worthingtons and Starr were far from the only people honored Saturday. A number of firefighters, EMS workers and members of the Ladies Auxiliary were honored for 60 years, 50 years, 40 years, 35 years, 30 years, 25 years, 15 years, 10 years and five years of service to the company and the community.
Several videos chronicling Level's history, produced by members of the company, were shown Saturday. One video included a tribute to the late firefighter Aaron J. Peterson, who died in July at age 45 after being seriously injured in a May motorcycle accident on Route 40.
Special honors were given to the members of the Ladies Auxiliary, which provides a variety of behind-the-scenes support services to the fire and EMS units. The auxiliary is open to men, as well.
"Every volunteer fire company has its backbone, and that is the ladies auxiliary," emcee Richard Brooks, who also serves as head of emergency services in Cecil County, said. "Here at Level, that is no exception."
Auxiliary President Karen Lopes noted in her remarks that the group has "dedicated 60 volunteer years" to supporting the company.
"As we continue, we will continue our motto of standing behind our men and doing our Level best," she said.
Young members honored
Level President Jason Gallion also encouraged recognition of the younger firefighters and EMS workers. He reminded them they were "following in the footsteps of a lot of great people who, over the past 60 years, have truly given their Level best."
Some of the youngest members of the company received top awards for 2012. Timothy Sturgill Jr., 18, was named EMS Person of the Year, and Marvin Jackson, 19, was named Firefighter of the Year.
Both were humble when asked their thoughts on receiving the awards.