Laconia firefighter honored for decades of service as he retires
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — "A firefighter's firefighter," said Capt. Chris Shipp. "An icon," added Lt. Chad Vaillancourt. "An icon," echoed Deputy Chief Shawn Riley. "This fire department is what it is today because of this man," declared Fire Chief Ken Erickson.
These tributes and more were showered on Capt. Bob Landry Thursday, his last after 31 years in the fire service, the past 27 of them with the Laconia Fire Department, where, as Shipp said, "He earned the friendship and respect of every man and woman in the department."
Deputy Chief Kirk Beattie said Landry's "dedication to the Fire Department, the city and the surrounding communities is second to none."
Two firefighters from Platoon Number 1, Firefighter Rick Hewlett and Lt. Dave French presented Landry mementos of his tenure, a plaque commemorating his lengthy and exemplary service, and photographs – one of his colleagues and another taken at a fire.
"I'm not much for making speeches," Landry remarked, adding "I just loved doing my job. I love these guys," he continued, casting his eyes around the room. "The respect and support they've given me has made it easy to do my job."
Erickson recalled when he joined the department 15 years ago.
"It was not a fun place. I wouldn't have lasted two months," he said, draping an arm on Landry's shoulder, his voice choking with emotion, "without this guy."
"Somebody had to train you," Landry quipped.
"I owe you my deepest, deepest gratitude," Erickson said.
Calling Landry "the last of a breed," Erickson recalled that he was blown out of an attic, fell down a flight of basement stairs, tore his bicep hauling hose and used three air packs fighting a fire, "but he would never give up. He just never gave up."
Landry enjoyed his work, as a photograph of him leaving a fire sweaty, sooty and smiling attests. He said he liked crawling through a burning building full of smoke on his hands and knees more than "standing around and throwing water on it." But, he said that as synthetics have displaced natural materials in home furnishings, fires burn hotter and quicker, leaving firefighters little time inside a building afire.
Known for answering the call to virtually every fire, Landry was in California when an apartment building on High Street caught fire on an April evening in 2012. Sensing he would be disappointed, several firefighters at the scene called to tell him he was missing a fire.
Landry said he has no specific plans for his retirement apart from "some deer hunting, maybe some hiking and spending more time with my grandchild." However, he added that after a while he may look for work outdoors, perhaps as a ski instructor.
Landry's career in the fire service was to end this morning at 0700 hours, unless an alarm was sounded earlier, for he would not fail to answer his last call.
Lt. Dave French, on behalf of Platoon Number 1, presents Capt. Bob Landry with mementos of his service to the Laconia Fire Department, which ended this morning after 27 years. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)