Last Saturday afternoon, members of the Clintondale Fire Department, along with family and friends, gathered at the fire house to dedicate two Memorial Benches to long-serving former members Shirley Anson [1939-2021] and Preston “Mickey” Palazzo [1943-2022].
Fire Chief Rick Brooks spoke of the accomplishments of these beloved members.
Anson, who joined the department in January 1981, became the first female member of a fire department in Ulster County. She took all of the required firefighting training and was a Top Responder year after year. Seeing that there was a need for daytime drivers, Anson became a driver of the Rescue, Tanker and Engine Trucks.
Anson also received the Firefighter of the Year Award in 1992 and in 1998 through 1999 was elected as Treasurer of the Board of Fire Commissioners for the department.
Chief Brooks said Anson showed a deep love for the history of her town by serving as the Town Historian and was the Founder and President of the Plattekill Historical Preservation Society. He daughter Jami is now holding that position, carrying on her legacy.
Preston Palazzo, known affectionately as ‘Mickey’, joined the department in January 1966. During his more than 60 years with the department, Mickey served in numerous positions, including past Chief, but his most enduring role was that of a Mentor for new members.
Chief Brooks said Mickey’s, “positive outlook and professionalism carried into his training of all our members and drivers and spilled over into his beloved community of Clintondale. Mickey always had a story to tell that inevitably taught you a lesson [about] something he learned that he wanted to pass along.”
Mickey was Fire Chief in 1985 and served on the Board of Fire Commissioners from 1998-1992.
Chief Brooks said the Memorial Garden, where the benches were placed, was installed many years ago. When Anson passed, the department began talking about doing something more to honor her, “and that’s what started it. I think it was Patti [Brooks] who came up with the idea of a bench in her honor, and when Mickey left us shortly thereafter, they decided on a second bench. Now the name of any firefighter of honor can be placed on these benches and it makes the garden more of a welcoming place.”
Mary Palazzo said her late husband was dedicated, not just to the Fire Department, but to everything in Clintondale,
“He was Clintondale from the minute he was born and he wanted to see the whole village thrive and do well,” she said.
Mary said it is no wonder that Mickey loved the Clintondale Fire Department because he was born and grew up in a house directly across the street from the firehouse.
“He hung around with everybody and when he was quite young he officially joined and everything about him was fire department,” she said. “As men and women got busy working and the ranks thinned, he was trying to recruit people because he was very, very concerned that Clintondale be able to maintain its independence and not have to merge with Highland or New Paltz; when I say he was about Clintondale, he was about Clintondale.”
Mary said she and Mickey were married for 51 years, recalling that when their first child was born, “he met his baby, thrilled to pieces and said, I gotta go to the fire house and tell the guys I have a son.”
Mary described Mickey as a, “good man and was Clintondale through and through.”
Mary said Mickey, “would be so thrilled to know how far his nephew Philip [Sabarese] has come in the fire department.” She said her husband was “adamant” that Philip return to the department he loved so dearly.
Philip said one day his uncle brought a hat to his shop, “like I was already back in; he was the type of person you couldn’t say no to.”
Shirley Anson’s daughter Jami, said the Clintondale Fire Department means home to her family, pointing out that her family has had a presence in Clintondale for seven generations. Her father Robert “Butch” Anson is a life member of the fire department and having the benches named after these two friends, “means the world to him.”
Jami said, “growing up in the 1990s when mom always said if I can be a fire truck driver, you can be anything in the world. She’d say that all the time to me and it meant a lot,” Jami said.
Jami said Shirley and Mickey belong, “like these benches because they were really good friends...It was meant to be.”
As the ceremony came to an end a rainbow appeared in the sky, a fitting finale to an emotional remembrance of these two loved individuals.