May 18, 2010


May 18, 2010



President Larry Siddall opened the meeting with three tales from Betty Sharp’s award-winning book, Amherst A to Z.


Guests:  Elsie Fetterman introduced her granddaughter, Robin Engel, who not only has a paying internship for this summer but also won today’s wine raffle.



Larry welcomed recovered Harry Brooks back from his absence as a result of an auto accident.

Arthur Kinney, recently honored at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo with the Jean Robertson Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sidney Studies, acknowledged nearly equal pleasure in being cited in the OED, that venerable resource, the Oxford English Dictionary.

Ruth Miller reminded those who want to join those going to hear Marcia Ball on Tues., June 8th, at the Iron Horse to call her.


Harry Brooks introduced today’s speaker, W. Tim Nelson, who was sworn in as Amherst Fire Department’s chief in March 2010.

            Chief Nelson described his generally local roots growing up in a military family stationed for a time at Westover Air Force Base, having graduated from Westfield State, marrying the daughter of another Westover family, and currently living in South Hadley with his wife and graduate-student daughter, Jessica.

            Completing his college degree in biology and intending to open a lab notwithstanding, Chief Nelson happened to take the firefighter’s test, placed at the top of the list, and began his fire service career at the Holyoke Fire Department 28 years ago.  His dedication to and love of his work in fire service was evident throughout his description of his own career rise from firefighter to, about seven years ago, department chief in Holyoke.  Along the way, new areas of fire service opened up to him, including fire prevention and Hazardous Materials training.

            Chief Nelson detailed his route to becoming Amherst’s Fire Chief, talked about a fresh perspective that he can bring to an already well-running department, and noted that, whereas in South Hadley Town Meeting takes two days, he applauds the passion that Amherst residents bring to the functioning of their town.  He traced some of Amherst’s Fire Department’s history from its first station house where Amherst Brewing Co. is now.  EMT’s began in Amherst in 1947 when most of the nation hadn’t yet heard of them.  He told of the Shutesbury man kept alive recently for the 46 minutes that it took to transport him to the hospital by Amherst’s EMT’s doing multiple medical assists in the ambulance the whole way.

            The  Amherst Fire Department has 39 permanent employees, a call force paid by the call when the permanent force needs back-up, and a student-training program in conjunction with UMass-Amherst since 1953 that results in about half their number becoming line fire-service employees after college.  His hardworking staff responded to 5200 EMS and fire calls in 2009 and to 2300 calls so far in 2010.   

            Responding to questions, he assured Dee Waterman that her request for continuity in fire inspection of real estate is within his capacity to address successfully.  Of a South Amherst fire station, Chief Nelson said that it depends on where funding will be found and placed, as the main fire station is currently too small for the large new fire trucks.

            Chief Nelson’s regard for fire-service work and his pleasure at bringing that to his job in Amherst overspread his talk, which was received enthusiastically by his audience.


Your scribe, Jacquie Price