On his morning walk to St. Ambrose Catholic School in the mid-1960s, Pat Papin would pass the Seymour Fire Department on Chestnut Street.
With each morning walk, his fascination of helping people through firefighting grew.
“I was a little kid just walking by there and was always interested in it,” he said. “Back in those days there was just one station by the railroad track.”
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When Papin joined the department it was difficult if you did not have connections, he said. The year he was hired also was also the first year agility tests were required.
In 1983, he became a firefighter and after 35 years of service with the department, Papin, 65, said it’s time to hang up his helmet. Looking back on his career, Papin is happy to have had the job he always wanted.
“This was always a job where I didn’t feel like I didn’t want to go to work in the morning and for that I’m grateful,” he said during his last shift, which was the week before Christmas.
Papin said he will miss his coworkers and helping people and he still feels strongly about helping people as he closed out his career.
“When I get out of the truck and hear the siren, it still gives me the same feeling I had 30 years ago and that’s helping people,” he said.
Papin can remember many of the details of his first fire.
He said he had worked a half shift, done some training and went back the next day for another half shift. He was called to his first fire five minutes after returning for that second shift.
“It was a one-room fire with a little flame and quite a bit of smoke,” he said.
Papin said he was anxious to get into the fire and stop it when a veteran firefighter sensed his excitement and humorously told him to calm down.
“I remember going in there all fired up and my captain at the time kind of grabbed me and said, ‘Pat, get down,’” he said. “You don’t run into a fire, you kind of crawl when you get up to it and I was just excited and it’s kind of a funny thing for an older gentleman to grab me and tell me to take it slow.”
The job has had its ups and downs, but Papin said he doesn’t have any regrets. There are some difficult times while serving as a firefighter like helping people during a devastating part of their lives.
“We help people when they’re going through a hard time,” he said, adding it has always been difficult working when children or young people are involved. “I always think of my grandkids.”
But working through those times are what firefighters are called to do, Papin said.
“You might think about it later when you get back to the station, but when you’re there, you have to do your job,” he said. “I feel terrible when people lose their house or something and I always wish there was more I could do.”
One thing that has changed throughout the years is the number of runs the department makes.
It’s not because there are more fires, but because of the additional work fire departments do as first responders to wrecks and medical treatments.
“We used to only do fire rescues and sometimes we’d go weeks without going out,” he said. “Now with the medical runs, we’re out all day long, but I enjoy that too because it’s another way of helping people and it makes you feel good.”
Staying at one department for his whole career was special and Papin said 35 years went by faster than many might think.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way and it seems like just yesterday I was hired,” he said. “It went way too fast.”
The people he has worked with also made his career special, he said.
“Most of these guys you work with become family,” he said. “We are like a family where we have disagreements, which is normal, but we’re a family and they’ve made it special for me.”
Papin said he’s not worried about the state of the department with his retirement because he has full confidence in the young firefighters that have been hired in recent years.
“This department is in good shape and we have some great young firefighters that are doing a great job,” he said.
Papin plans to continue working part time as a grain truck driver for Wischmeier Trucking in Seymour. That’s something he has done for 27 years.
“I’ve already told him that I will probably work more, but I’m going to be taking off more time too,” he said.
Papin said he and his wife Brenda plan to do some traveling and spend time with their grandchildren.