Covey By Chris Mays cmays@reformer.com WILMINGTON — Rain showers did not dampen the spirits of community members observing Memorial Day by way of parade and ceremony.

Nor did it keep them from honoring former assistant fire chief and lifelong resident Richard Covey, who suffered from a stroke last year, with two awards.

"In 1970, when then-chief Barker Willard started the junior fire program, [Covey] was in the first group to join," said Brian Johnson, firefighter and former fire chief, when presenting Covey with the American Legion Citizenship Award. "This allowed high school students to become part of the fire department and become firefighters and assist at fires. After graduation, he stayed with the fire department working his way through as a firefighter, as apparatus driver, as a pump operator and eventually as an officer."

Covey had become assistant chief in the mid 1980s, marking a 32-year commitment to the position. He helped navigate the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, and took on extra responsibilities in training and committee work throughout the years.

There's not a truck at the department that Covey "wasn't part of designing, making sure it got built correctly and receiving it," Johnson said. About two years are spent on this task, starting from when the decision to replace a vehicle is made to the point where the new one is delivered. That was the proof Johnson used to convey Covey's "tremendous commitment" to the department.

"Thank you," Johnson said. "But the biggest thing he did, every day just about after work, he'd stop by the station. 'What happened? What do I need to know? Just in case I'm in a position I need to make a decision, I want to be up to date.'"

Covey was a founding member of Deerfield Valley Rescue.

"You have to realize if you take an ambulance call in Wilmington, it's not a 15-minute deal," Johnson said. "You're always looking at two hours plus."

Covey also served on the town cemetery committee and was an active participant in the annual Town Meeting tradition. Johnson said Covey would ask the tough questions, voice a concern and make comments at Town Meeting.

Covey's family joined him at Memorial Hall and the fire station after the parade. He's a husband, father and grandfather.

"Thank you for all your support," Covey said from a wheelchair as the crowd that filled Memorial Hall gave him a standing ovation.

"You're welcome," several firefighters standing next to him replied.

Covey made a similar expression of thanks at the fire station before Assistant Fire Chief Scott Moore presented him with the Lifetime Member award.

"Richard, for your outstanding dedication, we just want you to know you will always be a member of this department," Moore said. "And the things that go on here, a lot of it's because of you and we appreciate everything you've done."

Fire Captain Bill Spirka had another "token of appreciation" for Covey.

"We voted that you should have your helmet," Spirka said. "Thank you for everything you've done for me and the department."