Plainfield safety complex to be named in late fire chief’s honor

  • Dennis Thatcher died Aug. 27, 2019,  at the age of 61. OBITUARY PHOTO

  • The sign in front of the Public Safety Complex on North Central Street in Plainfield in August 2019. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2021 4:38:30 PM

PLAINFIELD — The late Dennis Thatcher will be honored May 29, when the public safety complex he helped bring to town is renamed after him.

Thatcher’s widow, Theresa Thatcher, said it’s is a great development, but also noted that her husband would probably have had a different view.

“He would think he didn’t deserve it,” she said. “He didn’t do anything for the fire department for any return.”

Thatcher was the chief of the Plainfield Fire Department for 35 years before dying in 2019 after a battle with cancer.

“We felt right away that we had to do something to recognize Dennis besides a funeral,” said Dave Alvord, Plainfield’s current fire chief.

Alvord said a committee was formed that included Theresa Thatcher, which made made the decision to have the public safety complex named after the late chief.

“Their thoughts were Dennis did so much for the fire department,” Theresa Thatcher said. “He built the fire department up from very little to what it is now.”

In April, the Select Board voted to authorize renaming the building the Dennis A. Thatcher Public Safety Complex.

Thatcher, a Plainfield farmer, joined the fire department in 1976, the same year as Alvord. After previous chief  Norton “Dutch” Hathaway died in 1984, the fire department voted overwhelmingly to recommend Thatcher as chief, a request the Select Board honored. He was only 26, and his subsequent 35-year-tenure made him one of the longest-serving fire chiefs in the county.

“He was much loved and appreciated by all members of the department,” said John Westwood, a retired firefighter and EMT and the current president of the Plainfield Volunteer Firefighters Association, an organization that fundraises for the department.

Westwood also said that even when Thatcher was sick with cancer, he continued to work, and that Thatcher rewrote the department’s standard operating guidelines at that time.

“While he was battling cancer, he was still very involved,” Westwood said. “Even though his physical condition was compromised.”

In addition to being a firefighter, Thatcher was also an EMT.

Alvord said Thatcher helped to get the grants and loans that made the construction of the town’s public safety complex, which opened in 2008, possible.

“He built it,” Westwood said. “He pushed it through.”

Alvord also noted that Thatcher was able to get grant money for vehicles for the department as well.

“He loved that firehouse,” Theresa Thatcher said.

She also noted how she helped her husband with grant work, and that he died shortly before their 40th wedding anniversary.

On what the decision to name the public safety complex means to her, Thatcher called it “a huge honor for him.”

“He gave his heart and soul to that department,” she said.

The dedication ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 29, at 10 a.m., and will feature the unveiling of a new sign and a plaque inside the complex.

“We want to make it clear that he was an extremely important person in our town,” Westwood said.

Westwood made the sign out of steel with brass letters. The sign is 14 feet long and 2 feet high and will go over the entryway to the complex. The steel was powder coated by Berkshire Custom Coating free of charge.

Westwood said that making the sign helped to give him some catharsis around the loss of Thatcher, and he expressed a hope that people would come out to the dedication ceremony to honor his life.

“I was glad to be able to have a part in keeping him in our history,” Westwood said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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