Published 10:03 pm Saturday, October 25, 2014
Chuckatuck switched to party mode Saturday for its third annual Founder’s Day, folks coming together to celebrate their pride in the vital North Suffolk community.
After the parade came to an end mid-morning at the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department building, folks remained to enjoy school performances, live music, children’s games, vendors and more.
For the focal point of this year’s event, though, the atmosphere changed from one of celebration to one of respect.
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Amid the volunteer fire department’s 60th year, his son, Jay Saunders, pulled Engine 29 up to the podium for its dedication to the late Jerry Saunders, who faithfully served the organization for every single one of those years.
It was the same engine that took Jerry Saunders’ casket away from Oakland Christian Church on Sept. 29.
Officiating at the ceremony attended by several city officials, Brad Whitley, department president, called Engine 29, a 2012 Pierce Arrow XT outfitted with advanced life-support medical equipment as well as vehicle extraction equipment, “one of the finest pieces of firefighting equipment in the city of Suffolk.”
Whitley spoke of Jerry Saunders’ rise through the ranks, to serve as chief from 1986 until 2002, as well as the mark he left on the organization.
He was “instrumental” during the department’s transition to EMS as well as fire-fighting capabilities, Whitley said, and is unrivaled in his commitment to hands-on service.
“He is without a doubt the all-time leading responder in the history of this organization,” Whitley said.
“He was always a mentor and role model for young men who came through this department.”
Other notable events included performances by the Nansemond River High School marching band and Oakland Elementary School choir.
The school performances attracted to Founder’s Day scores of parents and other relatives of performing students, including Mary Lee Backus.
Backus said her granddaughter, fourth-grader Lily Backus, was part of the elementary school choir despite the fact that she was born deaf.
“She wears hearing aids and goes to school using the interpreter,” Backus said. “They invited her to join the choir — we were very excited about that — and it’s her first experience singing.”
Backus added, “This is the first year I’ve been to Founder’s Day. It’s brought me out, and it’s a wonderful occasion. I’m really impressed.”
Grand Marshal this year was Chief Barry Bass of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association, who said he was “honored to have them want me here.”
“I feel like it’s coming home,” Bass said. “I just love the community and the people here. I think it’s important that they keep their traditions and have this unity that they have.
“It’s a great event, with great people.”