“The average tenure of a volunteer is only three or four years,” said Bradley Quin, president of the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Company. “By that time most have moved, their job has changed, or something’s come up and they simply cannot do anymore. Anybody who gets past five or 10 has really got it figured out.”
Buddy Colby, then, must be a logistical genius; he’s been with the company for 41 years.
On Nov. 23 Colby’s outstanding—and age-defying—service was recognized by the Virginia Sons of the American Revolution (VSAR), who conferred upon him their Fire Safety Commendation Medal.
James Rust, a Purcellville police lieutenant and VSAR member who was involved in the decision to honor Colby, said giving him the commendation just made sense.
“The accommodation is designed for those who go above and beyond the normal call of duty,” Rust explained. “We look for longevity and lifetime achievement. Buddy Colby has been there for 40 some years. He has held every office possible, sometimes a couple times. He was the perfect candidate.”
Both Quin and Rust stressed that Colby was deserving of the award not only for his extant accomplishments, but also for his willingness to continually reinvest in himself and in the volunteer company as a whole.
“One time I walked into the back of the station and found him with full equipment, all his gear on, breathing through a gas mask,” recalled Quin. “I said, ‘Buddy, what are you doing?’ He was taking a basic hazmat operations class because he didn’t have the certification, which they didn’t offer when he started in 1972. Here’s this guy, mingling with the brand new, very young, firefighters. He has 40 years’ experience and has done this work, but he had to go back to square one and do it over again. He could have been teaching class. A lot of senior guys wouldn’t do that. Buddy will. He decided, ‘I’m going to do whatever I have to. I’m dedicated.’”
“He leads by example,” Rust said. “And he’s been an exemplary teacher.”
In addition to performing regular crew duty, Colby is charged every fourth week with the command vehicle that goes home with officers, designated by county, who have the capability to respond to calls outside the regular company area. If an emergency arises while he has the car, Colby rides out to the location and takes command.
“He has experience serving not only your company but other communities,” said Quin. “He does his best for us and rotates through on another level of responsibility that extends beyond the borders of our own town. Not everyone has the capability to do that. There aren’t many people who have that kind of knowledge and experience.”
Colby himself was more succinct.
“My grandfather was a volunteer fireman in New Jersey,” he explained. “My father was a chief up in Round Hill for many years until he died in 1989. My brothers did it when we were in high school, and they got me into it more than anyone. Now my son is involved. I wanted to do it to help my community, because it’s necessary. I wanted to do it because somebody has to do it.”