SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The Union Fire District of South Kingstown held its annual awards night earlier this month at South Kingstown High School.
Special recognition was paid to Retired Captain Hilding T. Munson who was honored with the Distinguished Service Award. Munson was presented with a bronze–plated pickhead axe for his 54 years of service with the District.
Joined by friends and family, Union firefighters gathered to honor those who served the department past and present.
Capt. John Pastore, Station 5, speaking of Munson’s dedication as a firefighter said,
“Hilly was always the first one down to the station when there was a call. He was truly dedicated for the entire 54 years, right up until recently. He’s still there. He’s still running our station as the President.”
Munson, known to all as “Hilly” joined the department in 1961,signing on at Snug Harbor Fire Department, Station 5 where he served his entire tour of duty. Promoted to Captain in 1981, Munson held the title for 24 years, the longest run of any captain known to the department.
“It was a total surprise,” said Munson. “I had no idea. They called me down to the station and said ‘We have awards night. You have to come.’”
Munson true to the dedication that he had shown throughout his career turned down other offers to be with the members of his department.
“That’s what we do. Every year we get the call for awards night. We put on our blues and we show up. It’s what we do. We come here to be with the rest of the firefighters,” he said.
Snug Harbor Fire Department members joked and reminisced about their time with Munson at the helm as captain.
“Hilly was the one person who kept the station running for all that time,” said Lt. Peter Schofield. “I started with him in 1988. I have 27 years with Hilly, 23 of them at Snug. I met Hilly when I was five years old. I went to the station with my dad and Hilly asked me if I wanted to be a firefighter. That was how it started for me.”
Schofield said that Munson trained hundreds of firefighters for UFD throughout the town.
“He’s had a hand in almost everyone’s training over the past 50 years,” said Schofield.
Capt. Pastore, whose family had been affiliated with Snug Harbor Fire Department for three generations, moved up the ranks of the department under Munson, transferring into “Snug” from Matunuck in 2009.
“Hilly was the main guy who taught me and a lot of the other members who had just come in how to drive the trucks, how to pump the trucks. He really got us up to speed and helped those of us who wanted a little more advanced training,” said Pastore. “He was the mentor of the station who was always around, besides the captains. He was the senior man that everyone looked up to at the time. Even with the guys today, he takes on that roll.”
Munson hasn’t thrown in the towel as mentor either, training new volunteers and entertaining them with his unlimited cache of stories.
“He’s been there for each and every one of us,” said Pastore. “I’m sure of that. From training on Wednesday nights, to running the department’s books, to keeping the meetings organized, running the benefits and the Snug Harbor May breakfast – it’s all Hilly. He’s really been a hand in that for all of us.”
Also receiving Distinguished Service awards were Ret. Chief Robert Perry, Ret. Deputy Chief Kevin D. Quinn and Rev. Paul Bizer.
Commendable action awards were presented to Deputy Chief Lance Whaley, Lt. John Neilsen, Firefighter Eric Winger, Lt. Brian Kroll and Firefighter Louis Kelley.
Unit citations were presented to the Engine 18 Dive Team, Special Hazards Unit and Engine 10 Special Hazards.