At the age of 18, Tracy Miller and James Keller were just two teens riding their bikes on an evening in Bergen around the year 1958.
They happened to hear there was a fire on Maple St., so they rode by the scene with great interest. To their suprirse, the fire chief at the time yelled down to the boys to get up on the fire truck and help.
Holding the water hose, and instantly becoming a part of the crew at the scene was the moment where both men fell in love with the idea of being a firefighter. Looking back on that fond memory, Miller explained how "it was so exciting" to be able to offer help at such a time, to such a critical service.
Both lifelong residents of the Bergen community, and lifelong friends, were happy to share their stories of dedication and service with me.
The town of Bergen recently commended Miller and Keller for their 50 years of service in the Fire Department in March of 2010. It was an honor to get to meet with both Tracy, his wife Loretta Miller, and James and Wilda Keller.
Miller shared with me that at the age of 18, when he signed up to be a fire fighter in Bergen, his name was placed on a waiting list. "At the time, volunteering for the community was the thing to do", Miller added.
It was in July of 1959 when Miller and Keller joined the Fire Department. Keller was appointed as a member just after his father had been a part of the FD for a total of 65 years. Keller added, "it has been an ongoing generation sort-of-thing for the Keller family to be a part of the Fire Department."
Both miller and Keller are still active and greatly involved with the FD as they now participate as Fire Policemen. Their exceptional acts of volunteering continue to shine light on other junior fire members, as well as the community of Bergen and its youth.
For Miller, the most gratifying reward from being a part of the FD for so many years, he shared, has been "simply being able to help my neighbors in their time of need." Keller also agreed that being able to help others has definitely been the most satisfying reward from this uncompensated labor of love.
As if dedicating one's life as a volunteer fire fighter doesn't receive a loud enough applause, both individual's contributions to the community exceed past their role in the FD.
Tracy Miller also served on the Town Board of Bergen for 16 years. He is the Vice President of the Historical Society, a member of the Masons, and a Deacon at The First Presbyterian Church in Bergen. He also volunteers his time at the Senior Center in Batavia, and he generously provides elderly with transportation when needed.
Don Cunninghman, Supervisor of the Town of Bergen, stated that Tracy's will to help the community is "extraordinarily unique", whether it be "arriving at the hall to pilot the ambulance, direct traffic at a fire scene, or just be a available to lend a hand where needed", Tracy is there to volunteer.
(Photo: Tracy Miller)
Miller currently dedicates his time to the FD in planning for their 150th year celebration in the upcoming, 2011 year.
Both Miller and Keller actively participate in the Cemetery Association at Mt. Rest where they are currently getting ready for Memorial Day, by placing flags on all of the firefighter's graves.
Keller (pictured below) was a member of the EMT rescue squad for ten years. He is also a present participant as an Institutional Representative for Boy Scouts, which is sponsored by United Methodist Church. He has been a member for 20 years. Keller is also a member of the V.F.W.
Not only have both men been recognized for their 50 years, and counting, of outstanding work as volunteers for the Bergen Fire Department, they both continue to gain satisfication from their incredible contributions to the community by participating in various village functions.