Doug Johnston knew something was up when he walked into a Fairview Township supervisors meeting Monday and saw his daughter and her family in the audience.
It didn't take long for him to learn why they were there and why he was summoned to the meeting.
Johnston was honored at the start of the meeting for his 50 years of service as a volunteer firefighter with the Fairview Township Fire Dept.
"I never gave it a thought," Johnston said when asked if he thought he'd still be in the fire service when he started in 1963. "It kind of gets in your blood."
For his service, Johnston was honored with a resolution passed by the supervisors, a mounted miniature bugle and resolutions passed in the state house and senate.
Johnston's wife, Wende Johnston, also received a gift — an envelope filled with gift cards to various restaurants — from the township to hopefully make up for Doug Johnston missing so many meals because of fire calls.
"We appreciate you allowing Doug to participate for 50 years," said Stephen Smith, township manager. "So many times the wives are left alone at odd hours."
In the beginning: When Doug Johnston moved to the township in 1963, he promptly joined its fire department after previously serving with the Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County, Fire Co.
After two years with the Fairview department, Doug Johnston served a tour of duty in Vietnam as a soldier in the army, achieving the rank of sergeant.
When he returned stateside, he went back to the fire service and has been with it ever since.
He said it was the friends he made at the fire house that kept him going all these years.
"All the friends I have were through the fire department," Doug Johnston said. "It's a good time."
Extended family: The Johnston family spent a lot of time at the fire house with fellow volunteers and their families, Wende Johnston said, something she added made their friends more like extended family.
After the meeting ended, there one last surprise for Doug Johnston, who is also township employee working in the public works department.
With a collage in hand the Johnston's grandson, Aidan Mozes, 6, rushed over to his grandfather.
The framed collage included pictures of Doug Johnston on the job, a newspaper clipping and a picture of him with his grandson, both wearing firefighter helmets. The Johnston's daughter, Jennifer Mozes, and Aidan created the memento.
"He's proud of pap," Wende Johnston said of Aidan. "He calls it pap-pap's fire house."
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.