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October 01, 2009
Darien Times, Visits with Volpicelli
Date: October 1, 2009 Section: News
Every year, 15 Darien High School freshmen are chosen to participate in a four-year program at Darien EMS-Post 53. Their goal is to graduate as EMTs, or state-certified emergency medical technicians.
The late John E. "Bud" Doble founded Post 53 in 1970. His idea was that young people should have the opportunity to volunteer in their community and that they would be doing the job of caring for others. His ideas were that young people could not only rise to the challenges of adult responsibility, but in many ways, do it better.
Bob Meyjes, chairman of the Post 53 Board of Directors, was a teenage member under Mr. Doble.
He was a "larger than life character, an iconoclast, someone who did things his own way and didn't take'No'for an answer," Mr. Meyjes told me.
For the past 39 years, adults and these Darien High School students have blessed Darienites with the spirit of volunteerism. Talk about Mr. Doble's vision! He knew that in this modern day and age, kids adapt to new technology a lot faster than adults.
Perhaps the most important tool used by Post 53, is the ambulance itself. In 1970, Mr. Doble recruited a most talented automotive mechanic, Bob Dennis. Both the youngsters and adults revere Mr. Dennis. Through these nearly 40 years, he has become a Post 53 legend.
When I first met Mr. Dennis, my first impression of this tall, Henry Fonda look-alike, who is 79, is the personification of the great line spoken by Fonda in the movie "Mr. Roberts" when he said to ensign Jack Lemon: "You can call me Mr. Roberts!" Good manners are important in the formative years of youngsters and to notice that there is a genuine respectful and sincere way that all these youngsters at Post 53 address Mr. Dennis, made me appreciate the vision Mr. Doble had when he chose Mr. Dennis to not only be the ambulance maintenance man, but more importantly, a special human being whose love for the future of all of us is children.
I visited with 17-year-old Willem Sandberg, a senior "Postie."
"Mr. Volpicelli, I am honored to have been chosen by Mr. Dennis to be in charge of our ambulance operation. I have already earned my EMT," he said. "What a teacher! Mr. Dennis, a former auto mechanic, knows every nut and bolt needed to build a safe ambulance.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned from him was that you must be a defensive driver."
Post 53 has three ambulances, and all three must meet the exacting details requested by Mr. Dennis. He explained to me that each vehicle has a five-year expectancy, therefore, he is constantly keeping up with the latest in state-of-the-art in ambulances.
At night, all three ambulances are kept at Post 53. In the morning, the Posties on duty who have slept there overnight, drive one to DHS if the other two are on duty.
The ambulance at DHS is there to answer the call.
The Darien Lions Club donated a fully-equipped "fly car." The emergency lights were donated by the Crane Foundation Inc. The car arrives moments after the Darien police arrive on emergency calls.
Post 53 immediately provides basic life support.
I consider Post 53 as the alma mater that these youngsters attend right here in Darien. Do you remember your college or university days? There is always some special person you will never forget. Because that person saw in the young, the future of mankind.
Mr. Dennis is that kind of person.
Some days you might see him painting stripes in the parking lot or as one Postie, Kim Hyde, said: "Once I saw him on the rooftop cleaning our dryer vent!" As in college, some students who sleep in a dorm do plenty of towel and linen cleaning. Adult member Lisa Stout said: "He is the glue that keeps us together, he bridges the past with the present.
He also has a great sense of humor."
"Lou, for the past six years, I have been escorted several times to a hospital in one of our ambulances," Mr. Dennis told me. "If you have surgery, please try to schedule it early in the morning because when you get there the doctors, surgeons and nurses are all bright and bushy-tailed!" Mr. Dennis, you are Mr. Post 53 to me.
Lou Volpicelli, a long-time Darienite and Emmy Award winning television producer, has covered title bouts, the Olympics, presidential inaugurations and produced documentaries across the world, which he has documented in an unpublished memoir. Each week, he shares his visits with the people who make Darien run.
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