01/19/05 — Little River's Mike Aycock named 'Fireman of Year'

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Little River's Mike Aycock named 'Fireman of Year'

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on January 19, 2005 2:16 PM

As veteran firefighter Mike Aycock listened to the speaker at Tuesday night's annual Wayne County Firemen's banquet, he began to get a little suspicious. The speaker was describing the firefighter who had been chosen as Fireman of the Year and as he spoke, what he was saying began to sound familiar to Aycock.

But Aycock, a Little River firefighter for more than 30 years and the department's chief for the past eight, said he was still shocked when they called out his name.

"I heard him talking and some of the things related to me," Aycock said after accepting the G. Edgar Summerlin Award, "but I thought he was bound to be talking about someone else."

"It's a very high honor for me," Aycock said. "The Firemen's Association is very important to me. It's a very worthy organization. I'm honored to be a part of it."

Aycock almost missed the banquet. He was supposed to be in Myrtle Beach on business until today, but he woke up sick on Monday and stayed home.

"That goes to show you how the Lord works," he said.

Aycock joined the Little River department in the late 1960s, then was gone for a few years and later rejoined it.

Mar Mac Fire Chief Bill Harrell said Aycock had brought new ideas to the county association and was an especially big help to the county during the 1999 hurricanes and subsequent flooding.

Aycock is a salesman for Royster-Clark Inc. He and his wife, Judy, have two daughters and a son and three grandchildren.

While Aycock was a surprised recipient, the winner of the women's auxiliary award was a familiar face.

Joan Williams of Arrington won the award for the 10th time, including the last three years, in a secret ballot of auxiliary members.

New association officers are Phil Shiver of Indian Springs, president; Stephen Bryan of Jordans Chapel, vice president; Curtis Stafford of Nahunta, secretary-treasurer, and Aycock, chaplain. New auxiliary officers are Joan Smith of Antioch, president; Ms. Williams, vice president; Kathy Carmack of Arrington, secretary, and Stephanie Smith of Antioch, treasurer. The new officers were installed by Pam Minshew, an assistant clerk of court.

In accepting the new job, Shiver said the fire service had evolved quickly from bucket brigades. He said he became interested in the service as a child while watching a neighbor respond to fire calls.

Then he said, "We're blessed in Wayne County to have more equipment than we realize."

The outgoing president, Chris Gurley of Belfast, thanked many for his successful term, including the spouses for allowing the volunteers to serve.

The evening's guest speaker, state Treasurer Richard Moore, called the fire service "an unbelievably dangerous profession." He noted that more firefighters die on duty each year than law-enforcement officers. He said he was working to keep the state employees' pension fund strong.

Moore said he had resigned a federal prosecutor so that he could run for the state House of Representatives and do something for public employees. He then served as secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety before being elected treasurer.

"Over the last few years, North Carolina has the strongest actuarially sound pension plan in the U.S.," he said. "The money is already there. The taxpayer won't have to pay more taxes to keep promises already made."

Moore, who was introduced by state Sen. John Kerr, said the state has increased the monthly benefit by $3 a month and doubled the death benefit to $20,000.

Andy Woodall, a captain in the Raleigh Fire Department, told the audience that a memorial would be completed this year for the state's 145 fallen firefighters. He estimated that 90 percent were volunteers.

Janet Potter, this year's fire princess who represented Pricetown, performed her winning skit, displaying her "Big Book of Fire Safety."

Eighteen departments received plaques for perfect attendance, and relief fund checks were distributed by C.W. Turner Jr.