HUGO — Ron Gray, 60, originally joined the local fire department back in the late ’70s because that is just what people did back then. Next month, Gray will retire from the Hugo Fire Department (HFD) after 40 years of service to the community.
“Ron has achieved a very rare milestone in the fire service. Most firefighters retire with 20 years of service or less with an organization. This will be something that Ron can always hang his hat on,” said HFD Chief Kevin Colvard.
Gray, originally from White Bear Lake, moved to Hugo in 1978. In August 1979, he joined the HFD.
“When I moved up here, most of the people at the time joined the Lions Club, fire department, a church group ... community involvement was a big thing,” Gray explained. “The EMS and fire end of it both sparked an interest in me, and I thought it would be a good fit.” His wife's family (the Kostuchs) were all very involved and well-known in the community, which also encouraged him to get involved.
Over the years, Gray has filled a variety of positions at HFD. He’s been a firefighter, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and more. For the past three years or so he has served as an engineer or pump operator (driver).
Because of Hugo's small-town nature, Gray recalls personally knowing a lot of the people HFD helped on calls. He responded to his own mother's cardiac arrest and has also transported both of his children to the hospital after a call came in. “You have to try to pull yourself away and do your job. And then there's the other aspect of it, that you can't let your personal feelings or opinions interfere with it either. You have to know when to step back and let somebody else do it,” he said.
Gray also enjoyed the fact that while he was at the store, it was not uncommon for someone to thank him for his service.
When Gray reflects on his 40-year career, the fire call that has really remained vivid in his memory was a fire that burned down the Pioneer Club dance hall (where Total Recall is now, on Forest Boulevard) in the mid-’80s. “It was a big fire, the roof caved in and we had a backdraft. A couple of firefighters were sent to the hospital for injuries, but it turned out to be fine,” Gray recalled.
Gray will officially retire Feb. 15 and will be honored with a 40-year service award at a future City Council meeting. With a little bit more free time on his hands now, he hopes to spend more time hunting, fishing and traveling. For now, he has no plans of retiring from his day job with Allina Ambulance.
Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com.