By Joselyn Watkins
Gary Wilson will probably not like this preface to his article, but I believe in telling it like it is.
Gary Wilson is and has been an unsung hero for lo the many years that I have known him which is just short of three decades. He tells his own story with very slight editing in the following article:
DOB: April 24, 1948
PLACE: Right here in the Bills Creek Community of Lake Lure
Graduated R-S Central High School 1966, Attended Kings College, Charlotte, NC 1966-1967
Entered the USAF in December 1967 as a Security Policeman
Honorably discharged as a SSGT in December 1971
I have three grown daughters, Michelle, Carla and Christy. two sons-in-law, David and Joe, two grandsons, Kelley and Matt and one step granddaughter, Hallee. I love spending time with my family and going on trips to Florida with them. It is my way of recharging my batteries. I have a loving family that I have been blessed with. Most of my family works in the emergency services field (Fire, EMS), and it can be a chore getting everyone together at one time. Holidays and weekends off are few and far between. Christy, Joe, Matt and Kelley are members of our fire department at Rumbling Bald and Matt recently went to work as a paid fire fighter with Valley Hill Fire Department in Henderson County. My daughter Carla is a nurse at Spartanburg Regional Hospital. Christy and Joe both are full time EMTS.
December 1971 I came to work at what is now Rumbling Bald Resort, and except for a six month hiatus have been employed in the Security Department either full or part time. Part time is what I do now. I was chief of the Department up until my retirement in 2011.
From 1982-2001 I was a member of the HNGEMS (HNG-Hickory Nut Gorge). Also, I have been a Charter Member and Chief of Fairfield Mountains Fire Department since 1981.
At the golden age of 70, I am still going strong thanks be to God! I have tried to throw out the “R” word a few times in the last 6-8 years, but that hasn’t happened yet. I love what I do, especially the Fire Department. I spend more time there than anywhere else, not because I have to, but because I want to. It gets in my blood, and I guess that is why I am still doing it.
We started the Fire Department with not much money, few trained people, and I was told more than once, “give it up”. But, I was determined, so with the help of a bunch of good people to make it work here we are almost 35 years later going strong!
Anyone who tells you that you can do it by yourself has never tried to run a Fire Department. Even a small volunteer department like ours takes the help and support of a good membership, good officers, and a supportive board and auxiliary. I get far too much credit for what a lot of other people do.
Our Fire Department started out running 25-30 calls a year thirty seven years ago and now we run 170-180 calls a year. We decided about five years ago to add Medical Responder Training and Response to our department, and now 35-40% of our calls are medical. This was a service that was really needed and we have around 11 people who are Medical Responder/EMT certified.
There are future plans for expanding our facility, new fire apparatus, and we are always looking for more volunteers. Don’t use age as an excuse, I don’t. If you are in good health, there are many jobs you can do to help out. Of course, we are always looking for younger people also. These are the ones who we train to enter a burning building, do rescues, etc. Come see what we are all about. You might just be our next member!
I have been asked what I consider to be some of the more memorable fires or incidents over my years of service. First I think of the Party Rock Fire of two years ago. Also, before that was the Youngs Mountain Fire of 500 acres. Additionally, there have been structure fires at the Wellness Center at Rumbling Bald Resort, the BM Pro Shop, Lakeview (now Legends) restaurant, the Maintenance Facility, and of course the devastating fire at the Fairfield Mountains Chapel. Let me add that we also run mutual aid calls for fires in Bills Creek and Lake Lure.
When asked what part of my job I think of as most satisfying, my response is medical emergencies. On these calls you can make a difference in the person surviving and recovering. These experiences convince me more than anything, that what you do is not only a service but a calling.
Ps. Remark on Gary Wilson’s article: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”