MERIDEN — Keith Gordon, fire chief of the South Meriden Volunteer Fire Department for the last 10 years, has retired after 27 years with the department.
“Out of all the paperwork and all the aggravation, the best thing I got to enjoy was to go to somebody’s house … and to help them,” Gordon said. “When they or their family came back to thank you for saving them, it was all worth it.”
Gordon was instrumental in developing an entrance exam for new recruits, a fund drive, a night crew, and various other projects.
“I enjoyed taking on a project and seeing it to completion and then starting something else,” Gordon said. “I’ve never been somewhere…that I hadn’t left it in a way better position than I found it.”
Gordon, 65, has also served as the director of asset protection and risk management for Adam’s Hometown Markets for about 23 years. He plans to move to Florida with his wife.
Gordon started with the South Meriden Fire Department as a EMT in 1991, about a year after moving to Meriden. After a few months, he realized he could do all the drills the firefighters could, so he became certified as a firefighter as well and now has a Fire Officer 2 certification. Before serving as chief, Gordon spent 10 years as deputy chief.
He started in emergency response when he was 18 years old in Levittown, New York. For more than 10 years he was a EMT with the Wantagh Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Even after moving up to Middletown in 1982, he served 12-hour shifts with the station whenever he went back to visit his mother.
He was inspired to become a EMT after his father died in a time when first responders were not trained in CPR. His first years with the ambulance corps consisted mostly of transporting patients to nursing homes and doctors appointments, but when Gordon became chief he expanded the service and started a night crew. The station then moved to a primary position answering 911 calls.
When he first moved to Middletown, Gordon also joined the Durham Ambulance Corps and worked at Middlesex Hospital as a paramedic assistant. At Middlesex, he helped develop a paramedic assistants program and won the American Hospital Association Award for Volunteer Excellence in the early 90s.
In South Meriden, Gordon started a fund drive to collect money for purchasing things they couldn’t afford through the city budget. During his time, the department was able to buy a Jaws of Life extrication tool and got an inflatable boat donated by the Kiwanis Club, turbo engines from the Lions Club, and a Chevy Suburban from CT Light and Power. They painted and added lights to the donated vehicle to transport officials to scenes and to be able to send one person to medical calls, Gordon said.
Gordon also served on the Meriden City Council for 16 years, beginning in 1995. With the help of the Board of Education, he started a program for teaching every high school junior CPR before their senior year.
“As a volunteer firefighter and a volunteer fire chief, not only that, as a city councilor — he was a big advocate for public safety,” Meriden Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Dunn said, pointing to the Adopt a Hydrant program. “He’s a champion of public safety.”
Gordon will be replaced by Steve Legere. Legere has served as the deputy chief for 10 years and as a volunteer for 21 years.
“(He’s) a smart man, very organized, and I think he’ll do well,” Gordon said of his successor.