By John Anderson
Roger Belhumeur had a tremendous influence on the Town of Auburn and proudly led the Auburn Fire Department as its first full-time Chief. The staff of the Auburn Fire Rescue Department decided it was time for some recognition and a reunion. Invitations went out far and wide for a “Night with Roger Belhumeur”, and the response was terrific.
37 former call firefighters and officers came together at Fire Headquarters on Saturday night along with current fire personnel, friends, and family. Many area towns were represented by chiefs, officers, and firefighters who had interacted with Chief Belhumeur over the years. In total, 184 people attended the event.
The apparatus floor at Fire Headquarters became a dining room, and the trucks sat outside on this warm December evening. The only truck left in the stations was Auburn’s original Engine 3, which is owned by former Auburn and current Sturbridge firefighter Gordon Holstrom. Capt. Stephen Anderson headed up the kitchen crew that prepared pasta, meatballs, and salad along with all the fixings.
Capt. Tom Ashe and James Harmon came up from Florida for the event. Robert Sullivan flew in from Colorado while Richard Pehrson arrived from Minnesota. Pehrson and Sullivan were the two WPI graduate students who, in 1993, helped develop the residency program in West Auburn that provided a manned fire station to the town for over ten years at no cost except for heat and hot water.
Here is a complete list of the former firefighters: James Harmon, Robert Arsenault, Chief Robert Murray, David Salmonsen, Donald Berry Jr., Lt. John Young, Charles MacMillan Jr., Mark LaPlante, Lt. John Willis, Joseph Rossik, Bruce Fant, Dave Bellerose, James O’Connor Jr., Jacques Kallanian, Kent Seith, Stanley Garbauskas, Gordon Holstrom, Lionel Berthiaum, Lt. Kenneth Holstrom, William Johnson, Richard Fleming, Robert Sullivan, Capt. Paul Sibley, Richard Pehrson, Michael Flek, Stanley Johnson, Capt. Thomas Ashe, Lt. Dennis Belhumeur, Lt. Raymond Godaire, Brian Belhumeur, Kenneth Gorczynski, Neal Belhumeur, Michael Belhumeur, Mathew Belhumeur, Mel Star, Robert Vrusho and John Anderson.
So, for a few hours, a group of people who have given thousands of hours to the Auburn community through its Fire Department had a chance to rub elbows, share some memories, get on the back step of Engine 3 one more time, and, most importantly, say hello to Chief Roger Belhumeur.
This was a great evening for everyone present, and it certainly was a proud moment for the Town of Auburn and the Auburn Fire Department.