Island firefighter recognized for his 41 years of dedicated service

Perry Keller, left, receives a plaque from Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens, on behalf of the municipality, to recognize his 41 years of service to the Central Manitoulin and area fire departments. photo by Tom Sasvari

MINDEMOYA – Municipal leaders, members of the local fire department, friends and family gathered on October 25 to recognize Perry Keller for his 41 years of dedicated service to the Central Manitoulin and area fire departments.

“He will be missed; it will be difficult not having Perry on hand all the time, but he said he will still be around to help out when we need something,” stated Phillip Gosse, Central Manitoulin fire chief, on the recognition held for Mr. Keller on his retirement. 

Mayor Richard Stephens congratulated Mr. Keller on his 41 years of dedicated service to Central Manitoulin and the areas fire department as deputy fire chief and fire chief, presenting him with a plaque commemorating his achievement. Fire Chief Phillip Gosse presented Mr. Keller with a fire department flag, which was raised at Mr. Keller’s home (where the ceremony took place) to mark the occasion. 

“I presented Perry with a Central Manitoulin Fire Department flag,” Mr. Gosse told The Expositor. “He has a flagpole in his front yard, and he always said he would like a fire department flag so we bought him a new one.” 

“Perry has been good to our family over the years as a friend and has always treated me right. And he certainly helped me out in taking on the role of fire chief,” said Mr. Gosse. 

Mayor Stephens noted there was a good-sized crowd on hand for the ceremony, with members of the community, fire department, municipal office and family members on hand. “I presented Perry with a plaque on behalf of the municipality for his 41 years of dedicated service to the community.”

“Perry had taken on the duties of fire chief after John (Reid) had passed away earlier this year,” said Mayor Stephens. “This was an important contribution and we really appreciate him stepping in like this. 

“He was the lead in starting the ambulance service and the first responder group in the community,” said Mayor Stephens. “Then the fire team was organized and he has been a key member of the fire department ever since.” 

When The Expositor caught up with Mr. Keller, he was working at Keller’s Garage in Mindemoya, from which he recently retired. “This is my first day back,” he laughed on Tuesday of last week. “I decided to get back into working in the shop short days. I found that after giving up the business and retiring from the fire department life, was a little slow, especially after COVID hit.”  

“It was quite a surprise,” stated Mr. Keller of the ceremony held last week in his honour. 

“Yes, I helped start the volunteer first response team and helped to bring the first ambulance here. I was involved in this project with Tom Farquhar. Then later I became a fire-fighter, a captain, deputy fire chief and then the fire chief,” said Mr. Keller. 

“The community has always been good to me over the years, especially in my business, and I have always believed in giving back to the community,” said Mr. Keller in explaining why being a fire fighter has been so important to him over the years.

“Retiring as a firefighter is a big change for me,” said Mr. Keller. “I have carried a pager for over half my life. But if there is anything the fire department needs me to help with, I will be glad to help out.”