One of the longest-serving volunteer firefighters for South Whidbey Fire/EMS has hung up his firefighter helmet.
Clinton resident Jerry Beck wore his South Whidbey Fire/EMS uniform for the last time last week. He served South Whidbey for 22 years as a firefighter and 11 years as captain for Station 32, located in Clinton. In total, Beck has 36 years of volunteer experience under his belt, having previously served in Contra Costa County in California.
He was also a fire prevention officer who went into schools to education youth about fire safety.
“It felt like the right time to step back,” Beck said. “We have a good group of people at the Clinton fire station who will be able to lead moving forward.”
The volunteer captain is stepping away from his role in order to focus more on his electrical business, Jerry Beck &Company, and spend more time with his family.
Beck will not be easy to replace, according to Chief Rusty Palmer. Beck wore many hats with South Whidbey Fire/EMS, which will take many people to fill. In addition to his duties as captain and fire prevention officer, Beck also has a contract with South Whidbey Fire/EMS to aid the district’s radio dispatch. Palmer said his heavy involvement came down to personal motivation and a desire to serve his community.
“He saw a need for having multiple roles and had the skills to do it and he stepped up,” Palmer said. “It was a lot to ask of a volunteer, but he did it all. We’re looking at spreading out his duties to take the burden off a single individual.”
Those who never saw Beck in his fire uniform over the years may have been to his house. For more than 20 years, the Beck family has covered their Clinton home in festive lights during the Christmas season. Using his skills as an electrician, he employs roughly 30,000 lights to create a drive-through holiday lightshow.
For him, the lights are all about giving back to the community, much like his reasoning for dedicating so many volunteer hours with the district.
“My father taught me that one of the things you need to learn to do is give back to your community,” Beck said. “If you give back to the community, the community is there for you.”
Although many firefighters would look forward to the day when they don’t have to think about waking up to the piercing beeps and boops of a fire radio, Beck says he will miss it. It may sound crazy, but he wants to help people out on their worst day. That’s what the job is all about for him.