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Friends, colleagues remember longtime firefighter
In 1964, a member of the Union Fire Co. in Manchester knocked on the door of Vince Stevens' home, asking for volunteers to join the department. With no experience, Vince jumped at the opportunity and joined. Then he stayed with the company for 52 years.
Vince Stevens died Thursday at the age of 84.
His decision to join the department drastically changed his life and the lives of his family. His three sons, Joe, Andy and Tim, are all members of the fire company. Joe Stevens is the fire chief, Tim Stevens is the assistant chief, and Andy Stevens is a firefighter who helps train cadets there. They have been there since they were teenagers.
The fire company: Vince and his family moved to the Manchester area from Hanover in 1964. The fire company was going door-to-door looking for volunteers, and Vince joined after being asked. He remained an integral part of the department for the next 52 years, serving as a captain, an engineer and the president of the fire company at different points during his tenure.
"I guess you could say he was in for the long haul," Joe said.
Joe said it didn't take long for his father to feel like part of the department, and eventually Vince considered the department an extension of his family.
"Everybody at the fire department looks out for each other," Joe said.
Vince was a driver for The Mason and Dixon Lines trucking company, and he took those skills into the fire department, where he drove the fire truck. His sons became a part of the extended family as well, all joining at age 16.
“(The 16th birthday) wasn’t so much for the driver’s license as it was to get into the fire department then," Joe said.
“He was our dad, he took us under his wing and taught us,” Tim said.
Led by example: Vince was not one to sit his kids down and tell them what to do.
“It wasn't so much as being taught or given instruction as it was just watching and absorbing that and knowing that’s the right way to do things and that's the way to treat people,” Joe said.
“He always did what he thought was best,” Tim said.
Joe recalled when his father was called to assist during the York City race riots in the 1960s. He said his father and other firefighters were sent to North York in case they were needed.
“I just remember my mom crying that she didn’t want him to go, and my dad saying 'I have to go,'" Joe said.
"As a kid I just thought that was a very brave thing," Joe said.
Joe said on the surface his dad might have seemed stern, but that wasn't the case.
"The people who really knew him, who took time to get to know him, knew that he was very soft-hearted," he said.
“He was more concerned about other people more so than himself,” Joe said.
“He would always listen to other peoples opinions and ideas,” Andy said. "He was a very fair man."
Respected: Chris Krichten, president of the fire company, said Vince was well-known and respected among the volunteers.
“He was an integral part of our department, and people had a lot of respect for his knowledge,” Krichten said.
Krichten recalled meeting Vince for the first time roughly 10 years ago when he joined the department.
"When I met Vince, he was very open to new people,” he said, adding that Vince was always smiling.
Retired York City Fire Chief John Senft was trained by Vince in the 1970s. He said Vince would come to some firefighting training sessions to help people learn how to pump the fire apparatus.
“I remember him as one who was very very patient and very willing to work with new people so that they could get a good understanding and comprehension of how things work,” he said.
In Vince's later years, he spent a lot of his time with the fire company helping out with various events there.
Joe said Vince and other longtime firefighters would take time to talk to some of the newer firefighters about the past.
“To be able to hear those stories and learn from them, it’s quite an impact, especially on the newer guys,” he said.
Services: A viewing will be held Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Diehl Funeral Home on 87 S. Main St., Mount Wolf. Another viewing will be held Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Holy Infant Parish, 34 Third St., York Haven. A funeral Mass will be held there at 10 a.m., followed by burial at Susquehanna Memorial Gardens at 250 Chestnut Hill Road, York.
A reception will be held at the station on 201 York St., Manchester, following the burial at about 1:30 p.m.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.