Members of the former North Columbia Fire and Rescue gathered for steaks and camaraderie Nov. 11 to officially decommission a Columbia Road fire station named in memory of a late department volunteer.
"It was fantastic," said Tom McFarland, the former chief of the department that covered northern Columbia County. "Everybody got to see one another again. That was super."
The North Columbia station No. 33 on Columbia Road near the quarry has not been used since Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue took over fire service for all the unincorporated areas of Columbia County at the beginning of the year, which rendered the North Columbia station obsolete.
In June 2004, the department's newest station, built on land donated by the Rinker Material's Dogwood Quarry, was dubbed the Wilber A. "Buddy" Sebelist Training Center after the man who built much of the station with his own hands, McFarland said.
"It was fitting that it was named after him," McFarland said of Sebelist, a longtime volunteer firefighter who served briefly as the department's assistant chief.
"There was a lot of Buddy in that station. He actually worked on that station after he became ill. He wouldn't stop," McFarland said.
Sebelist died after a long battle with cancer on May 18, 2004, less than two weeks before the May 29 station opening.
The gathering was a way to thank the former department members, to whom McFarland presented plaques, and to officially decommission the station.
The sign above the door designating the station in honor of Sebelist and the brass plaque honoring Sebelist were presented to his daughter, Kelly.
Sebelist's wife, Ruthann, said her husband was instrumental in the station's opening.
"It would look nice up on the wall," Sebelist's wife said of the brass plaque, though she has no plans for it yet.
Former department members, family and friends gathered at the station for one last cook-out, saying it was a fitting tribute to Sebelist.
"He would have enjoyed the fact that everybody was there having a good time," McFarland said. "He loved to do that."
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