News

Port Robinson firefighter receives Federal Exemplary Service Medal

By Cathy Pelletier, special to Postmedia News

Rose Terreberry, centre, has become the first firefighter from Thorold to receive a 20-year Federal Exemplary Service Medal. She is flanked by Fire Service Women Ontario president and Ottawa firefighter Louise Hine-Schmidt and Thorold Volunteer District Chief Carl Pearson. (Supplied photo)

Rose Terreberry, centre, has become the first firefighter from Thorold to receive a 20-year Federal Exemplary Service Medal. She is flanked by Fire Service Women Ontario president and Ottawa firefighter Louise Hine-Schmidt and Thorold Volunteer District Chief Carl Pearson. (Supplied photo)

At age 45, Port Robinson resident Rose Terreberry put on a heavy pack and gear and enlisted as a volunteer firefighter.

Two of her three children had grown, and her husband, Robert, was already attending weekly practices at their hometown fire hall, so it seemed like an ideal time to join him.

Terreberry’s formative years were spent playing around the Port Robinson hall, since her father, Percy Gilbert — who joined Station 3 in 1953 — became district chief in 1969.

The station’s long-standing tradition of delivering candy to children door-to-door on Christmas Eve continues, and she recalls receiving candy from Santa as a child as well as doling it out as an adult firefighter. One year, she even donned the Santa suit.

The most senior firefighter at Station 3 with 22½ years of service (from May 1995 to present), Terreberry is the first and so far the only firefighter in Thorold to receive a 20-year Federal Exemplary Service Medal from Fire Service Women Ontario, which she recently accepted in London, Ont.

Its inscription says: “3E Award 2017, Educate, Encourage, Empower.”

“Rose has responded to an array of emergency calls. To this day, firefighter Terreberry works as hard as or harder than anyone in the department,” said Carl Pearson, current district chief of Station 3, “Over the years, Rose has been a leader, mentor and co-worker to me and many others. Rose continues to be very supportive and always willing to go the extra mile.”

Calling her “detail-oriented and my go-to person,” Pearson said Terreberry “continues to be active at the majority of responses and association functions since day one.”

“If Rose was unable to attend our regular training session (prior to retirement from her vocation) she would collect her gear and go to another station offering training at an alternate time.”

While working full-time at an A&P supermarket, Terreberry attended weekly Port Robinson practices for 20 years, “plus I practised at Station 2 (Thorold South) for two years, so I got double the training.”

“I didn’t get paid but it was fun because I got to know them.”

Pearson said Thorold’s volunteer fire service encounters “quite a bit of turnover.”

“Over the years, we have had females join and leave the station, mainly due to employment opportunities. In the not so recent past, we were up to five of 20 members being female.”

As the fire station has become more diverse, Pearson said, “Rose has been indispensable with the integration of new members, making them feel welcome and part of the team; in other instances Rose has provided a nudge to members requiring a reminder.”

“In all circumstances, it’s a firefighter talking to a firefighter with the greatest of respect and usually involving a very infectious laugh from Rose.”

Her most memorable call involved initiating CPR on a man who had a heart attack.

“A couple of days later, we found out his heart just exploded and he had been a member of our hall” before moving out of town.

She also recalled rescuing “a young fellow” on Allanport Road.

“A truck had pulled out and he hit the side of the truck. We got him out of the car and the paramedics were there. He survived.”

The Terreberrys responded to calls together for about four years. Robert retired with 25 years of service, and Rose will retire at the end of December with 22.

What would she say to women wanting to become a firefighter?

“If they really want to, they can do it. Anybody can do it. They need firefighters here because people just don’t have the time. I learned a lot. (Made) a lot of friendships.

“You see a lot of things you never thought you’d see — a lot of excitement. Everybody supports everybody here and wants to help everybody. With a small town, it’s really interesting.”