After 32 Years on the Job, Firefighter Close Rides Home in Style
Close retired Thursday after serving on the Canton Fire Department for 32 years.
He answered the doorbell at the fire station on Sassamon Street and picked up the station's ringing telephone for the last time. After 32 years of service to the Town of Canton, Firefighter Paul Close hung up his bunker gear Thursday.
On his final 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. shift on the Canton Fire Department, Close's boss, Fire Chief Charles Doody, let him go home a little early--complete with an escorted ride home on Engine 2, sirens and all.
"All in all, it's a great experience," the 61-year-old retired Canton resident said from the firehouse yesterday."You never get rich in doing this, but you get rich in other ways."
With over three decades of firefighting in town, Close said there are too many stories and runs to recall. "There are good stories, there are bad stories, there are funny stories," he said. "But they only call when someone's in trouble. We're going out when people aren't happy. You can save people, but still, someone is hurting."
The toughest part of being a firefighter is not being able to save everyone, Close said. "When you lose people, especially kids, when no matter what you did to help, it didn't help" is the hardest part, he said.
The helping part of the profession has been another love of his, along with the camaraderie with other firefighters and getting to know people in town.
"We have a great bunch of guys," Close said of the CFD. "A lot of fun can be had on the job."
Close, a married father of two and grandfather of three, said he has been contemplating retirement for some time. "I've had enough," he said of the working life. "This is a young man's job."
With his retirement, one of his son's best friends was able to apply for and get on the department to fill his spot. "He was dying to get on the job," Close said. "It worked out."
Over the past 32 years, the fire department has changed, Close said. Back in the day, all the firefighters lived in Canton. Now the department is more diverse, he said. As a young firefighter, the members always spent time together with their families in Canton, he recalled. "Everybody did everything together," he said of the big Labor Day fundraisers and parties the CFD used to have. "It's different now," he said, noting that many of the CFD members live in other towns.
Doody said Close has helped carry on the traditions of the Canton Fire Department.
"Paul Close is another link to the past that Canton Fire loses and can never replace," the fire chief said. "I grew up in the fire department and my father and Paul worked together for over 30 years until my father retired 10 years ago. Paul, and the few firefighters left from his generation are so important to a young department like ours."
"Paul's knowledge of the of the job, the traditions, the culture and most importantly, the right way to do things was instrumental in helping to mold young firefighters and get them started on the right foot," Doody said. "Hopefully the young guys were able to learn from Paul's example of hard work, dedication, attention to detail and respecting the job."
Canton Fire Lieutenant Barry Ronayne has been on the department since 1973. He said Close's retirement is "an end of an era."
"It's different with younger people these days," Ronayne said. "Their values are different than ours were."
The lieutenant said Close was a hard worker. "He's a good man," he said. "He could do everything and he knows his streets. He'll be missed."
Chief Doody said he was lucky to have Close on his department. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Paul Close. I hope that he has a long, healthy and productive retirement – he definitely won't sit still. He will be missed by all of us."
Close said he will stop by the firehouse to visit now and then, and he does not have any big plans for retirement.
"I've thought about this for a long time and the last thing I want to do is get a job," he said. "I'd like to get up (in the morning) and decide what I want to do. But I'd like my schedule to be mine."