Tribute to Joe Simon, Jr.by Senator Heidi Heitkamp
Posted on 2015-12-15
HEITKAMP. Mr. President, today I would like to honor a
North Dakotan who is among the longest serving fire department
volunteers in my State, keeping his community safe from fires and other
threats for more than 65 years. That is a rare distinction in public
service. The name Joe Simon, Jr., of Thompson, ND, has been on the
volunteer firefighters' roster since his high school days when his
father was fire chief.
Joe served for 36 years as the chief of the Thompson Fire Department. During that time, it was Joe's responsibility to keep the department fully staffed, manage training and medical duties, and work on grants to help keep the department running. Though Joe has retired as chief, he is still actively involved with department, helping with monthly checks of equipment and going on fire calls.
According to his friend, George Hoselton, it was under Joe's leadership that the Thompson Fire Department got its first set of the Jaws of Life rescue system--a major purchase for a volunteer department. After a college student died in an accident along the highway near Thompson because no Jaws of Life were available, Joe led door-to-door fundraising efforts to buy the lifesaving equipment. The community, today comprised of just a thousand North Dakotans, contributed enough money that the Thompson Fire Department was able to purchase the Jaws of Life and a rescue vehicle needed to carry the Jaws of Life and other equipment, says George. And that is what Joe is best at: working hard, bringing folks together, and making his community safer.
Joe's volunteerism at the Thompson Fire Department over more than 60 years has made the department a model for other communities around the State and country. Thompson Fire Department has taught classes to share its practices with other fire departments in the region and has long led the way in improving its volunteers' skills and safety. Under Joe's leadership, the department secured one of the earliest automatic defibrillators in the State of North Dakota. Joe also helped get medical first response units up and running at other volunteer departments in the region and was instrumental in getting 911 and emergency first responder radio systems set up in Grand Forks County. Service is a way of life in Joe's family. His wife, Sue, has been an EMT with the Thompson Fire Department for 27 years, which puts her in second place in seniority.
After studying at the University of North Dakota, Joe has spent his life in Thompson helping to grow and support the community in many ways. For 36 years, he worked as the head of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service in Grand Forks. Outside of his firefighting duties, Joe has been actively involved in American Legion baseball, Thompson High School football, and almost any other sporting event in town. Every Memorial Day, Joe puts out flags in nearby cemeteries, and reads a list of the honored dead--all of the veterans buried at four cemeteries around Thompson.
Friend and fellow firefighter George says that Joe ``gets the biggest smile on his face when he helps someone. That makes his day.'' Volunteers make up 96 percent of North Dakota's firefighters. They have other jobs but continue to give back, building stronger and safer communities and supporting the very fabric of our State. North Dakotans know that each of us has to step in to help our family and neighbors during tough times, and our first responders know that better than most. It is North Dakotans like Joe who epitomize why our State is such a unique and wonderful place filled with dedicated individuals who put others before themselves.
Thank you, Joe, for your tremendous service to your community and for your tireless efforts to keep communities throughout North Dakota safe.