For six decades, Delbe Spath has been an invaluable and reliable public servant in the Wallkill community, and he was recognized for his contributions in a major way on June 21 when he was granted the Joseph F. Kelly Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award at the Hudson Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association’s annual convention in Latham. The same week, Spath was also given an award by Ulster County for 40 years of service in the county as a volunteer fireman.
While Spath has received awards from the Wallkill Hook, Ladder and Hose Company over the years, his recent honor from the HVVFA was particularly meaningful to him.
“This one is something I never thought I’d get,” he said. “It’s a very prestigious award to get a lifetime achievement award. It was tremendous. Especially with my daughter and granddaughter there and also my son. It still chokes me up thinking about it.”
The award was the culmination of a long fire career that continues to this day. During his tenure with the Wallkill company, he has served as president, deputy chief, fire commissioner and currently sits on the board of fire directors for the agency. “I joined in 1970,” Spath said of his time with the Wallkill department. “I first started my fire work in Chatham in 1958 and I served there for a number of years until 1965. I was working for the Thruway and I was hired as the highway maintenance foreman at Newburgh Maintenance and I transferred to the Cronomer Valley Fire Department and I was there for five years. I was promoted to highway maintenance supervisor on the Thruway in Kingston and then I moved to Wallkill and joined the department in 1970. So I’ve been in Wallkill since then.”
Over the decades, Spath has also volunteered for the local little league and the Meals on Wheels organization, but the fire company is near and dear to his heart. “He takes a great interest in the community and he has dedicated his whole life to the fire service,” Shawangunk Supervisor John Valk said. “The fire company is number one in his life, and it’s kind of fitting that he got the Joe Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award because Joe Kelly and him were best friends. So it was really moving for him to get that award. It’s well deserved. He could have been busy, but whenever that horn rang he’d be down to the firehouse. There was never a question if Delbe was going to make it.”
At one time, Spath was the Chief of the Chatham Fire Department and was one of the volunteers who started the Town of Newburgh Ambulance Corps, and subsequently served as chief of the organization. He’s still active in multiple organizations, as in addition to his role with the Wallkill agency, he also serves on the board of directors of the Ulster County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, where he previously served as president.
During the convention, the Wallkill Hook, Ladder and Hose Company also received a unit citation today from the HVVFA for its life saving efforts in handling a personal injury accident last fall where a resident’s life was saved.