One half of the Employee of the Year awards disseminated at the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District Board meeting Tuesday evening were of a family affair.
Beach Fire's Deputy Chief Tom Edge was presented Officer of the Year and Fire Fighter/ EMT William Edge was awarded Firefighter of the Year during a presentation ceremony. Fire Fighter/ Paramedic Joseph Devito was bestowed Paramedic of the Year and Red Coconut RV Resort co-owners Tom & Fran Myers were honored with Civilians of the Year.
Other distinctions included Capt. Ivan Bestrom, who was presented a plaque for 25 years of service at Beach Fire, and Retired Firefighter/ Engineer Dave Reckwerdt, who was awarded a plaque for 23 years of service.
SARAH LIST PHOTOGRAPHY
Beach Fire Deputy Chief Tom Edge (left) stands in uniform with his son, William, also an employee at the local department. Both Beach Fire relatives took home hardware after being named Officer of the Year and Firefighter of the Year, respectively.
"I feel proud to be recognized by the guys and gals within the department. Since I am getting ready to retire, this is a nice way to part," said Tom Edge. "I will have my name on a plaque in the department, so that's kind of cool."
The deputy chief was proud to have his son join him in being recognized during the ceremony. The younger Edge has been with Beach Fire for roughly six years.
"It's really special that my son is receiving the Firefighter of the Year award," Edge said. "Being a dad for all those years and watching him decide that he wanted to get into the fire service and go through the fire academy and work through the department has been fun and really different, but good."
Beach Fire Awards
Officer of the Year: Deputy Chief Tom Edge
Paramedic of the Year: FF/P Joseph Devito
Firefighter of the Year: FF/EMT William Edge
Civilian of the Year: Tom & Fran Myers from Red Coconut RV Resort
Edge plans on retiring after 35 years within the Beach Fire Department. He stated he has been recognized as Firefighter of the Year as well as Beach Kiwanis' Firefighter of the Quarter as he worked his way up the ladder from firefighter to driver to lieutenant to captain to his current rank and shift commander in 2002. He is also the current District 15 union representative.
"I hope ('Willie') can continue to carry on the family tradition as I walk away from this place," he said.
The older Edge grew up on the Beach after being born in Madison, Wisc. His family moved down here in 1970, and he attended Beach Elementary School and "had a lot of fun" during his formative years.
During the summer of 1976, Edge and six others pedaled their bicycles across the continental United States. Former Beach Dentist Bill Cooper led the group. Edge was between his junior and senior years at Cypress Lake High.
"We left the day that we got out of school, drove out to Astoria, Ore., pedaled our way back to Williamsport, Va., then jumped in the truck and came back home the day before the next school year," he said. "We sent then-Observer editor Lou Slack news clips, and he followed the story all summer."
Edge admitted he never thought he'd be a firefighter -even after biking by Station #31 many times- but was enticed when approached by then-Capt. Jim Bradford who told him and friends that the fire department was hiring.
"I spoke to the fire chief that day. He asked me when I could start. I told him tomorrow, and the rest is history," Edge said of his Sept. 1979 start.
The younger Edge was born in Southwest Florida at HealthPark hospital facilities, received an athletic scholarship to play baseball at Florida Gulf Coast University.
"One day he told me he was thinking about becoming a firefighter," said Tom. "I told him what hoops he would need to jump through. He enrolled at the fire academy and went through the program."
Tom was and has been an instructor at the Southwest Florida Public Service Academy for 25 years.
"The proud day came during the academy graduation when I got to shake his hand and present him with a diploma," he said. "He was following his old man's footsteps."
William, age 28, now serves Beach Fire as an acting driver. Younger son Jacob, age 14, is more of a scholastic type, says Tom.
"He's a pretty good student. He likes to read. I hope he does something different," said dad.
Besides promoting through the ranks, the elder Edge recalls fighting some large fires during his career (particularly the Caribbean Beach Club, shrimp boat fires) and working through some major storms and hurricanes (Hurricanes: Wilma, Andrew and Charley). Other highlights include helping to mold younger firefighters and watching their development.
With retirement looming in the next few months, Edge plans on doing some fishing and traveling and "kicking back to enjoy this beautiful place we live in."
From now until then, the Beach Fire father and son will carry on in their respective roles.
"If someone is having a bad day, we show up and try to make that bad day a little bit better," Tom said. "I've enjoyed my career here. The people I've worked with are a great group of people. They are caring and passionate. Whenever they are needed for their services, I think they go above and beyond their call of duty."