Portland ‘Firefighter of the Year’ presented at American Legion

See who the rank-and-file of Portland Fire & Rescue selected for the honor that was presented at the annual “Jack Lemmon Awards” …

During dinner, guest Gary Rundell congratulates the wife of his stepson, Portland Fire & Rescue’s Firefighter of the Year”, Lt. Aimee Rooney.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As has been their custom for decades, American Legion Portland Post #1 presented its annual “Jack Lemmon Award”, honoring Portland “first responders”.

Because, at the May 12 event, only personnel from Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) were attending, Post #1’s Commander, Earl Day, told why the police weren’t represented. “We invited them, but we didn’t hear back from them this year,” he responded.

At American Legion Portland Post #1’s annual “Jack Lemmon Award” banquet, post members and firefighters listen, as the meeting is called to order.

On hand, at one of his last ceremonial duties, PF&R Chief John Klum said, “When I retire soon, it’s events like these that I’ll really miss. This is a special night for both police and firefighters, where we get the honor one of our own. Tonight, we’ll be presenting our ‘Firefighter of the Year’ – an award selected by their peers.”

For PF&R, the selection goes way beyond “pulling names out of a hat”, Klum told East Portland News. “It’s a rigorous process that starts with nominations. They present narratives highlighting what the individual has done – not just on the job, but also their extracurricular activities, and the way they help reach out into the community.

“And, for the first time, they’ve selected a female, Lt. Aimee Rooney from a downtown station,” Klum said.

PF&R Firefighter Brad Martin prepares reveal why Lt. Aimee Rooney was selected “Firefighter of the Year”.

Firefighter Brad Martin began, observing that as a firefighter, the first thing that he did upon entering the American Legion hall was to check for “hazards” in the building.  “We found to open bars, five video poker machines, bingo, and three giant screen TVs. There is a chance as you can get trapped downstairs!” he quipped.

“We’re glad to be here with these fine citizens of East Portland, and to present this award to this public safety professional – Portland Police Bureau excluded; but they had their chance,” jibbed Martin.

Lt. Aimee Rooney listens while her accolades are presented.

“I’ve been with the Bureau for 22 years, and have had the privilege of working alongside Lt. Rooney for the past six years. She is our trusted leader, without doubt, but she also puts her trust in us. This makes us all a better team.

“She has a long history of doing ‘genuine acts of kindness and compassion’ for the people of Portland. With her own money, she purchases gift cards and donates them to citizens at emergency scenes who are in desperate need of food or supplies.”

In addition to being “extremely competent in all phases of managing a downtown fire company”, Martin added, “Lt. Rooney has earned the respect of the battalion chiefs.”

“How do you thank someone who’s had an everlasting positive impact on your life?” Martin asked rhetorically. “A gift card or flowers falls far short. A simple ‘thank you card’ is not nearly enough. I think the best way of thanking Lieutenant Rooney is to help make history – which is why I nominated her as the first female ‘Firefighter of the Year’.”

Firefighter of the Year”, Lt. Aimee Rooney thanks the nominators and guests for the award.

Lt. Rooney responded, “I’m honored to be selected as the ‘Firefighter of the Year’. I’m one of many firefighters who have been nominated for this award. I can assure you, each of them is equally deserving. I am sincerely grateful for the recognition for my organization and my peers.

“Thank you all for supporting me and trusting me in my professional qualities.  The support of my co-workers and family mean so much to me. Very few things in life are just the work of one person, this is definitely no exception.

“Thank you for the 25 years the American Legion has been hosting this event.

“And, thank you to my husband and family for allowing me to live out my dreams.”

Flanked by Firefighter Brad Martin and Post Commander Earl Day, Lieutenant Aimee Rooney accepts the 2012 “Firefighter of the Year” award.

In addition to this honor, Lt. Rooney will ring the bell at PF&R Station 1 during the David Campbell Memorial Service in June 2012.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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