Salute the Badge: Like father, like son

By Melissa Brunner
WIBW – February 28, 2017

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Each time Con Olson climbs into his ambulance, his thoughts shift to community.

“Whether it’s the fire department or the 4H or relay for life – or whatever it is – (it’s important) to be able to give back,” he said.

As regional director for Techs, Inc., the ambulance service for Seneca, plus Jackson, Osage and Atchison counties, Con never forgets what steered him in that community-minded direction.

“Growing up in a small town, the community depended upon people to keep it going,” Con said.

He also remembers who was the driving force – his father, Dee Olson.

“I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t on the fire department,” Con said.

Dee Olson spent 40 years with the all-volunteer Hoyt Fire Department, working his way through the ranks to battalion chief and serving as a board member. Con’s mother also was heavily involved in the department before her death in 1997. It’s what inspired Con to enter emergency services.

“It was part of my life from day one, so I couldn’t feature anything else for a career,” he said.

His first experience, of course, at Hoyt Fire, working calls alongside his father. Con recalls a brush fire that doubled around on them, sending nearby trees into infernos.

“It gets pretty hot, pretty quick,” Con said, while also recalling his father’s practical advice to put water on it and get to a safer spot.

Except his father also didn’t hesitate to put himself in unsafe spots, Con said. In 2000, Dee was part of the first team on scene when a man killed his parents, set their home near Hoyt on fire, and shot a deputy.

“Not knowing what they were walking into other than an officer down call and shots were being fired – that was about all they knew, but they broke every safety rule we have, and went in, did the job, got him out and got him to safety so he could be taken care of,” Con said.

His father’s advice after that call?

“Follow the safety rules,” Con said. “Do as I say, not as I do!”

Over the years, as Con moved into EMS work, he appreciated his father’s ear after responding to tragedies, like fatal car wrecks.

“Just having that knowledge about what it’s like to go through those experiences of, either a very sad situation or a very dangerous situation, and be able to vent that out and relieve some of that stress,” Con said.

It’s knowledge Dee shared with many a young firefighter, including current Hoyt assistant chief, Randy Smith.

“(He was) a great cordial guy, kinda one of those guys that bring you under his wing and kinda show you along with new guys,” Randy said. “Here, we run a lot of grass fires, and Dee, for most of my career, was either on a grass truck driving or in a tanker filling the grass truck and you’d get a few minutes of a break while you’re filling your truck up and he’d come up and, ‘Hey – you guys might want to look at this,’ say, ‘Hey, you’re having a hard time catching this here. Why don’t you come around on another tactic.’ Not everyone sees things the same way.”

Today, Randy says, it’s easy to see the father reflected in the son. In fact, Con was one of Randy’s EMS instructors.

“Con, being a great people person, can talk to anybody,” Randy said. “Real easy-going, just like his father.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that, when Dee passed away just before Christmas at the age of 87, Con chose to honor him with a fund to help other firefighters gain the knowledge Dee was so willing to share.

“A lot of volunteer departments don’t have the capabilities or the resources to get people through certification courses,” Con said.

It is perhaps the most fitting tribute, because, for a firefighter like Dee, there is no final call. It is what lives on in the next generation, in a community – and in a son.

“After 40 years, there is still much to offer,” Con says, “even if that’s not participating in day-to-day activities, but yet sharing your knowledge, your experience, being there for the men and women who are having difficult times, struggling in their department, whether it’s trying to learn their skills or dealing and coping with those calls that sometimes our mind wishes our eyes had never seen.

If you’d like to support the Dee Olson Firefighter Scholarship Fund, send donations in care of Denison State Bank, PO Box 71, Holton, KS 66436.

 

Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
http://www.ksffa.com
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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