John Copland thought the Cobleskill Fire Department, Auxiliary and Rescue Squad had gathered at the firehouse to enjoy a barbecue and hear Senator Pete Oberacker last Wednesday.
Instead, they were all there for him, including the Senator.
“It just about knocked my socks off,” Mr. Copland said. “It was humbling for sure.”
All were on hand for him to receive the New York State Senate 2022 Commendation Award and an award for Outstanding Legacy of Volunteerism from the fire department.
“I’m here to recognize one of your own,” Senator Oberacker told the audience of about 50 before calling a stunned Mr. Copland forward.
Just about speechless, Mr. Copland said, “I do what I do for the community.”
Jimmy Bogart, the fire department’s public information officer, nominated Mr. Copland for the state award.
“I’m very proud through my volunteerism to get to know him,” Mr. Bogart said. “He doesn’t seek recognition, and he deserves a lot more.”
The Outstanding Legacy Award, Mr. Bogart said, is for Mr. Copland’s “volunteerism in and out of the fire service.”
A member of the fire department and rescue squad since 1998, Mr. Copland has volunteered for a lifetime.
“When I first raised my hand as a Cub Scout,” he said later.
From Cub Scouts, he went to Boy Scouts, Explorers and three years in the Army National Guard while in high school in Schenectady.
Then, after three years in the Coast Guard––still more service and adherence to duty––Mr. Copland and his wife moved to Carmel.
At the urging of his wife, Mr. Copland in 1976 joined the Carmel Fire Department, where he eventually became chief.
Having grown up in Rotterdam, Mr. Copland wanted to return to the general area, so the couple bought a home on Clove Road in Seward.
“One of the things I did when I got here was unpack the scanner,” Mr. Copland said.
“Then I did the worst thing––I turned it on.”
He heard frequent calls for an ambulance in Cobleskill, and being an EMT and wanting to help, Mr. Copland joined the rescue squad in ’98.
Then-fire chief Doug Angle noticed “that I knew a lot about fire apparatus, so I told him what I had done in Carmel.
“It takes a crazy individual to do both, fire and rescue,” Mr. Copland said.
Now 82, he no longer pulls hose and rushes into burning buildings or treats patients in an ambulance.
But Mr. Copland’s still active, directing traffic during fire calls and also taking photos for the department and doing the bookwork for the rescue squad.
“I do what I can do,” he said. “It frees up somebody else.”
Helping people and being part of a team in the fire department and rescue squad are his rewards.
“The payback of self-satisfaction comes in the worst of times,” Mr. Copland said.
“If someone’s trapped under a car on I-88 or his house is burning down, that’s about the worst that can happen. If you can somehow alleviate the situation, that’s self-satisfaction.”
And as for being a member of both organizations, he called them his second family:
“It’s the brotherhood and the sisterhood of working together and helping one another. The crew here makes it all worthwhile.”