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October 21, 2013

Gilbertsville man serves for five decades

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A Gilbertsville man familiar with local history from the fire side has been recognized for 50 years of volunteerism and leadership.

James “Jim” Pochy recently was honored by the Gilbertsville Fire Department for his five decades of service, including 21 as chief.

On Sunday, Pochy said he was proud and pleased to receive a plaque with a clock on it during the department's annual clambake in August. About six or seven years ago, after serving as fire chief, he said, Gilbertsville Fire Department Engine 17 was dedicated to him “in recognition of his many years of leadership.”

The honors, however, don't mean the end of community service, said Pochy, who still responds to fire calls and attends firefighting organization functions.

“I enjoy doing it,” said Pochy, who is known as “Pooch.” After a lifetime in construction, he said, he is healthy and still takes on some jobs at his current age of 70.

Pochy said the Gilbertsville Fire Department, which legally is called the Eagle Fire Engine and Hose Company, is owned by its members and contracts to provide coverage to the town of Butternuts, the village of Gilbertsville and a portion of the town of Morris.

Scot Lueck, Gilbertsville Fire Department secretary, issued a media release about the efforts of Pochy and his wife, Susan, toward fire protection services.

“Asking Jim and Susie Pochy to tell a few stories from years past is like opening the nozzle on a fire hose, almost a literal fire hose because between them they have almost a century of experience with the Gilbertsville Fire Department,” Lueck said in the release.

Pochy started in the fire department when he was in high school and student volunteers were needed, the release said, and he met some members who encouraged him to join. Like many young couples with became involved in groups together, when Jim joined the fire department, his wife joined the auxiliary and soon will reach a 50-year milestone.

“Gilbertsville has been lucky to have the two of them in its community,” Lueck said.

In the early days, almost every weekend was spent at fire department competitions throughout the region, the release said, and the Pochys' eventual wedding date had to be selected so as not to interfere with what was called "motor-hose competition." In that era, work and late-night card games at the firehouse were the norm.

In his 21 years as fire chief, Pochy fought many fires including some big ones, according to the release, notably barn fires where the crews would spend all night battling the fire. But nowadays barn and silo fires are rare because hay and silage are kept in plastic outside.

Good enforcement of building codes has likewise cut down on chimney fires, Pochy said Sunday.

Pochy laughed when recalling changes in fire equipment, the release said. In the 1960s, the fire service had little money so they built things. A clever member put a V8 engine into a surplus army vehicle, the release said, and it worked. Split axle transmissions and double-clutch shifting have given way to automatic transmissions on trucks that drive more like big cars than army tanks.

In its prime, the Gilbertsville Fire Department had 55 members but now has barely half that number, the release said.

The Pochys suggest a reason for the decline is that people now are too busy to participate in the fire service. Another memory is of times when there would be a late-night fire alarm, the release said, and they would bundle their young son into the back seat of their car, where he would sleep while mom and dad fought to save lives and property.

Susan Pochy, a retired teacher from Cooperstown Central School who continues to substitute, said participating in firefighting services and having memories about it are a result of being "community people,” according to the release.