SACO – After answering the call for more than 30 years, Ed Dube got one last ride on a Saco fire truck last week in honor of his retirement.
Dube, the outgoing deputy fire chief, joined the force as a full-time firefighter in 1979 after graduating from Thornton Academy. His last day on the job was Sept. 28.
On Friday, Saco firefighters and paramedics, along with their counterparts from Biddeford and Goodwins Mills, as well as representatives from every Saco city department, turned out for a farewell barbecue.
Counting his years as a mascot for the Camp Ellis station, as a junior firefighter and as a call firefighter, Dube has more than 40 years of serving the fire department under his belt.
Dube said his retirement is bittersweet. It’s time, but he will also miss the brotherhood that comes with belonging to the Saco Fire Department.
He began considering retiring earlier this year, and after thinking about it for several months, said “it was just time, especially with everything changing so much.”
Taking his place as deputy fire chief is Dave Pendelton, a Saco native who has worked at the Portland Fire Department.
As the deputy fire chief, Dube oversaw the construction of the new fire station on North Street, as well as the purchase of most of the firefighting apparatus now in use.
“I was hired four days after graduating from Thornton Academy in 1979 and I worked my way up the ladder to deputy chief,” Dube said. “I have no regrets. I did and saw a lot over the years. I will really miss the guys. This is a true family. I will miss the good times and the stuff we do outside of the station.”
Dube remembers when he was first hired, the work week for a firefighter was 56 hours and the pay was $3.08 an hour.
“That was before gas was nearly $4 a gallon,” he said. “You could live on that wage then.”
Dube said he’s happy to be retiring healthy and at an age – 52 – where there’s still time do pursue other interests. He plans to take a couple months “to unwind and deflate before starting something else.”
Joe Carroll and Steve Mercier were manning the grill at Dube’s farewell barbecue Friday and said they’d “do anything” for him.
Carroll, who has about 12 years on the force, said Dube would be hard to replace. Mercier, who has about 20 years with the department, said, “It’s a real loss. He was fun to work for and with.”
Dana Ronco, who was a captain when Dube first joined the force and who has since retired, called him “a nice kid” and “really good people.”
Ronco called a career as a firefighter “the best job in the world” and “a good job where you can do a lot of good and take pride in your work.”
Dube’s passion and dedication to the job were obvious, according to Fire Chief John Duross.
Duross could not attend Dube’s retirement party, but in an earlier interview said, “For 33 years Ed Dube has been one of the most dedicated, professional and passionate firefighters that I have worked with.
“He has a genuine concern for the members of this department, the fire department’s image and the community that we serve. As a firefighter he was a reliable, skilled member of the team. As a fire captain he was a competent leader with compassion for his firefighters, and as a deputy chief he has demonstrated his ability and desire to continue to move the organization in a forward direction,” Duross said.
Duross said Dube was also an asset to the department “off the fire ground,” especially in his ability to seek out and secure non-tax revenue funding sources to supplement the department’s budget.
“Ed wrote several successful grant requests for items such as thermal imaging cameras, forestry equipment and safety equipment for our firefighters,” Duross said.
Also in attendance at Dube’s retirement party was his family: wife Sandy, son Codie and daughter Jaimie. Sandy Dube said the family was also ready for her husband to retire.
“We’ve shared him for so many years, now it’s our turn to have him home for holidays and birthdays. It will be great that he won’t have to jump up and leave in the middle of the night. We’ve been waiting a long time to have him to ourselves,” she said.
Dube agreed, saying the one thing he won’t miss is hearing the fire radio day and night.
His son, 21, and daughter, 19, are both students at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. Codie is studying criminal justice and wants to be a police officer, while Jaimie is not yet sure what she wants to do.
In addition to Dube, Capt. Luke Godbout, who had 39 years as a firefighter, and call firefighter Louis Lavigne, who had served for more than 25 years, retired from the Saco Fire Department earlier this year.