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Former chief honored at annual installation dinner

 

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Firefighter of the Year William Rowland (left) was honored Saturday night for his service as a former department chief and the grace with which he became a crew member when his term ended in 2011. Former Chief John D’Amato, who succeeded Mr. Rowland, presented the award to his predecessor.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Firefighter of the Year William Rowland (left) was honored Saturday night for his service as a former department chief and the grace with which he became a crew member when his term ended in 2011. Former Chief John D’Amato, who succeeded Mr. Rowland, presented the award to his predecessor.

It’s not easy, after you have been chief, to step down and be one of the crew, but William Rowland did just that in 2011 and he did it with grace, according to Shelter Island Fire Chief Will Anderson.

“He’s always there,” Mr. Anderson said about how the former chief, who served in that capacity from 2009 to 2011. He became one of the crew and can always be counted on to do the job well, Mr. Anderson said.

That’s why William Rowland was honored Saturday night as the “Firefighter of the Year” by his colleagues at the department’s annual installation dinner at the Pridwin.

“It was such a shock,” Mr. Rowland said about his selection. When the announcement was made, “I think I had a tear in my eye.”

He acknowledged it was difficult when he stepped aside as John D’Amato assumed the chief’s role in 2011. But he said it’s important to recognize that someone might do things differently than you did them and would bring a different style to the job.

“It was important not to be looking over his shoulder,” he said.

At the same time, it was important to him to continue to be an active firefighter and that’s why he has regularly responded to calls.

“You do your job and you don’t think about it,” he said of being honored. But he acknowledged that it was nice to know that others were watching and appreciate him.

Mr. Rowland, a lifelong Shelter Islander, interrupted by 10 years working in New Jersey, he joined the department in 1971 and advanced through the ranks. After 10 years away from Shelter Island, he had to return, he said.

“It’s like a magnet,” he said.

Joining the fire department was a no-brainer for a man whose family has had roots here since 1923 and a long history of volunteering. His grandfather was a charter member of the Shelter Island Fire Department and other family members have been active with the department.

When he wasn’t busy at work and with the department, he could be found many weekends working with a team at the Riverhead Raceway. But at 63, he describes himself as “too old” to keep up that hobby.

He spent many years in the printing business, but now describes himself as “somewhat retired.” That “somewhat” involves working part-time for Tom Cronin’s towing company, doing maintenance work for the Perlman Music Program and, of course, answering fire calls.

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