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  • Friday, July 19, 2019

    Convention’s Opening Session Features Law-and-Order Awards, Legionnaire of Year

    Law and Orders Awards took center stage during the opening session of The American Legion Department of New York’s 101st Annual Convention Thursday.

    Shirley Connolly 0182

    Shirley Connolly

    Also in the spotlight was Legionnaire of the Year Shirley Connolly of Marne Post 270 in Caramel (Putnam County, District 9). In presenting the award, Committee Chair Mike McDermott cited her involvement in and impact on the Post as well as her serving as a Legion ambassador to the community and other veterans organizations.

    ShirleyConnolly 0182 885x460

    Shirley Connolly on stage at the 101st Convention with, from left, Committee Chair Mike McDermott, Department Adjutant James Casey, and Department Commander Gary Schacher.

    Pointing to first responders, Law and Order Chair David R. Riley Sr. noted:

    “They are the ones who respond to the emergencies in our communities 24/7; many times without receiving any thanks, nor do they go looking for these thanks. It is our responsibility, The American Legion, to honor these heroes.”

    He went on to present the following prestigious honors:

    Steve Smith

    Steve Smith

    Emergency Technician of the Year: Steve L. Smith of the Brocton Volunteer Fire department (8th District, Chautauqua County). Despite a fall in 2002 that left him with two broken vertebrae and paralyzed from the waist down, Smith was determined not to be confined to a wheelchair. Through physical therapy and the fitting of a brace, he was able to begin walking again. His determination didn’t stop there. He went on to complete firefighter training in 2014 and then EMT training in 2016, and is giving back to the fire department that came to his rescue years earlier.

    Ricky Jenison

    Ricky Jenison

    Corrections Officer of the Year: Ricky Jenison of Groveland Correctional Facility (7th District, Livingston County). While driving to work last year, he noticed billowing smoke and pulled up to a house where children were screaming for their mother as they pointed to a vehicle on fire. He ran towards to vehicle when a small explosion occurred, and then he was attacked by four pit bull dogs. He sustained numerous bites that required 50 stitches and follow-up surgeries.

    “Officer Jenison is to be commended for his swift actions and willingness to help others in need, regardless of his safety,” said Riley.

    Chief Paul Rideout and FF Gregory Horst

    Chief Paul Rideout & Firefighter Gregory Horst

    Fire Department of the Year: Chatham Fire Department (3rd District, Columbia County), with Fire Chief Paul Rideout and Firefighter Gregory Horst accepting on behalf of the department.

    Composed of two companies (the Ocean Fire Department #1 and the S.W. Smith Hook and Ladder Fire Company), the Chatham FD responded to 143 fire calls last year. One of them involved an apartment complex for the elderly and handicapped. It turned into a mutual aid call. Nevertheless, Chief Rideout and Assistant Chief Eric Barnes “completed an initial attack and contained the fire to the first floor,” Riley noted, while Firefighters Alex and Gregory Horst gained entry to a blocked bedroom and rescued a gravely injured 71-year-old male resident.

    Additional firefighters conducted primary and secondary searches of the complex, recusing numerous residents who had become trapped in their rooms. “Due to quick response, actions and bravery taken by the initial volunteer responders, numerous lives were saved,” Riley said.

    Edward Sharpe with Dave Riley Sr. and Commaner Gary Schacher 0194

    Edward Sharpe with Dave Riley Sr. and Commander Gary Schacher

    Firefighter of the year: Edward D. Sharpe of Lakeville Volunteer Fire Department (7th District, Livingston County). Edward has been a member of the Lakeville FD for 56 years, and also had been a paid firefighter with the Rochester Fire Department for 25 years. He was known for his professional skills as a driver, pump operator, and interior firefighter. He often was called upon to perform emergency medical services prior to the arrival of an ambulance to an incident.  Ed Sharpe has mentored numerous young firefighters, and was a founding member of the Lakeville Volunteer FD’s Scuba Squad, which responded to searches on Conesus Lake before the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office formed its Dive Team. Sharpe was instrumental in securing the purchase of land and construction of the LVFD Training Grounds facility on Stone Hill Road in Lakeville. He is currently president of the fire fepartment. A Marine veteran, Sharpe has been a member of the American Legion Harrison-Lee Post 283 for 46 years.

    Michael Lewandowski with Dave Riley Sr and Gary Schacher

    Officer Michael Lewandowski with Dave Riley Sr and Commander Gary Schacher

    Law Enforcement Officer of the Year: Michael G. Lewandowski of the Town of Tonawanda Police Department (8th District, Erie County). A Marine combat veteran, Lewandowski served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has received numerous letters of recognition and commendations since joining the police department in 2011. For example, he created a 2,000-hour military veterans police officer trainee curriculum that was accepted by the VA for GI Bill benefits. He also was cited for his actions last fall that resulted in the arrest of an armed and dangerous felon, Riley noted. He responded to a female victim of domestic violence, and ended up chasing and apprehending the suspect, who was armed with a 9 mm handgun and had marijuana and cocaine in his possession.