WENDELL — When former fire Chief Tom Vaughan needed a right-hand man, he looked no further than Herb Ramsey Jr., the man he was replacing as fire chief.
For the next 27 years, Ramsey held the No. 2 spot in the fire department and helped guide the department through a host of changes.
On Monday night, Ramsey was named the winner of the 2014 Wendell Mayor’s Award.
Fittingly, Ramsey couldn’t attend Monday night’s annual chamber of commerce banquet because he was helping someone else: his granddaughter, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.
But a room full of people at Monday night’s banquet cheered his name as it was called anyway.
Ramsey served the fire department for parts of six decades. Beginning in 1969, Ramsey joined the all-volunteer department as a firefighter, working his way up the chain of command to become the fire chief in 1981. He held that post for three years, stepping away in 1984 to assume the role of assistant chief. He held that post until his retirement in 2012.
Wendell Mayor Tim Hinnant, in recognizing Ramsey’s service, recounted his own memories of Ramsey’s service. He recalled an incident in which his children were involved in a car wreck. Ramsey was one of the firefighters who responded to the scene. Later, as Hinnant sat in a hospital waiting room awaiting updates on his children, Ramsey and Vaughan came to him. The men sat with Hinnant and his family for several hours.
“When they got up to leave, they both reached into their pockets and pulled out their wallets and gave us every dime they had on them,” Hinnant said. “(Ramsey) told me it would be a long, slow road and that I would need to keep my hopes up. I think it says a lot about the character of a man to do something like that, especially when he didn’t have to do it.”
Ramsey was always much more than just an administrator for the fire department. When the alarms sounded, Ramsey was there to answer the call for help more than most. For several years, Ramsey led the department in the number of calls responded to.
As an administrator, Ramsey helped Vaughan lead the department through a major structural change when the organization moved from an all-volunteer agency to a hybrid form that included volunteers and paid staff.
In an anonymous letter, Ramsey’s nominator praised Ramsey’s dedication.
“(Ramsey) spent thousands of hours protecting and serving the community, and even risking his life when you and I were at home in bed or at our job away from Wendell,” the writer said.
Ramsey also provided his services at a cost, his nomination letter read.
“This service came at a great cost, not to the taxpayers of Wendell, but to Mr. Ramsey. His sacrifice of family time, material gain and personal cost were never a factor in his decision to serve, but can never be measured in terms of profit and loss to the citizens of Wendell.”
Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @easternwakenews