OAKLAND — About 12 years ago, Hardy Taylor helped rescue an Oakland woman from a snowblower incident that could have cost her her fingers.

Two weeks ago, the two shared a tearful moment as Taylor, longtime deputy chief of the Oakland Fire Department, locked up the fire station after his final shift with the crew. Inspired by the relief Taylor helped provide after her brush with danger, Ally Pow joined Oakland Fire and Rescue as an emergency medical technician in 2008. Now, she is a part of the legacy Taylor, 82, will leave behind. The deputy chief retired at the beginning of 2020, after 60 years with Oakland’s fire department.

Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Hardy Taylor, 82, back, and fellow firefighter Ally Pow laugh at the old fire house at 11 Fairfield St. in Oakland on Monday. A new firehouse is being constructed next door to the current facility. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Taylor and Pow worked weekends together roughly once a month, and she covered his overnight duties as he got older. Pow said Taylor was like family. Taylor agreed.

“I was glad she was with me,” he said, recalling his last day on the job during an interview Monday.

A retirement party for Taylor, open to the public, will be held Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m in the Williams Elementary School cafeteria.

Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Hardy Taylor at the fire station in approximately 2009. At the time the photo was taken, he had been fighting fires for about 50 years. Morning Sentinel file photo

Taylor made his first attempt to join the Oakland Fire Department when he was 14 years old. The chief at the time, Ed Pullen, allowed him to tag along on a fire call, but said he would have to wait until he was at least 18 to become an official member. He did just that, and in 1960, Taylor was formally recognized as a member of the fire squad. He became an assistant chief in the ’80s and was named deputy chief around 2000, according to the current chief, Dave Coughlin.

Taylor said he recalls the moment when he first realized “All these people are going to depend on me.” He was driving into Oakland at night and could see the town all lit up.

Over his decades of service, Taylor earned a reputation as a person who dropped everything to help others.

“Hardy is someone who was at every call,” Coughlin said. “He always answered the call. It didn’t matter the time, the weather or what he was doing. He’d always answer the call, no matter what it was. That is hard to replace.”

Hardy Taylor sharpens the chain near the tip of a chainsaw at his shop A. O. Taylor & Son in Oakland on Dec. 13, 2001. Morning Sentinel file photo

For many years, Taylor ran his father’s small engine sales and repair business in town, A.O. Taylor and Sons.

“I’d be in the middle of selling a chainsaw and suddenly I’d be gone,” Taylor said. “They’d say, ‘We were all ready to buy a chainsaw and he left!'”

“But those customers would stay and wait for you to get back,” Coughlin added, a testament to their loyalty.

Another time, Taylor was trying to get to the fire station to respond to an incident when the truck he was riding in caught fire.

“I helped put it out and then ran to the fire station,” he said with a smile. “I always got there one way or another.”

Taylor prided himself on being ready for anything.

“Back when I started, (Chief Pullen’s) wife would call and say, ‘The chief will be there in two minutes. You have a fire,'” he recalled. Taylor’s Heath Street residence was on Pullen’s way to the fire house on Fairfield Street. That was before there were two-way radios, he said.

Taylor developed what he and Coughlin agreed was something like a sixth sense for being in the right place at the right time when someone needed assistance.

“One time, I was in Waterville, coming back home, and I took a side street just to check out the side street, and as I came up, a child had just been hit by a truck,” he said, describing an incident from roughly 20 years ago. “It wasn’t a bad injury, but I was able to administer a little first aid until Waterville Fire Department showed up.”

Taylor gained the community’s trust through his approach to rescues. While his colleagues would prepare for and perform an extrication, Taylor — gentle and lean, with piercing blue eyes — would climb into the vehicle and comfort the patient, holding their hand and tending to their emotions.

Homeowner Myra Cook breaks down as Oakland Assistant Fire Chief Hardy Taylor speaks with her on Sept. 18, 2003. Her home on the Town Farm Road in Oakland was destroyed by fire. Morning Sentinel file photo

“The most important thing is having compassion for people and being there with them,” Taylor said. “Sometimes, people looked scared to death and I would put an arm around them and talk to them and explain what was happening. It’s scary when you’re in there and trying to get out. A lot of it is seeing someone they’re familiar with when they’re scared.”

Coughlin echoed that sentiment and said that when it comes to administering “sociological first aid,” few, if any, can top Taylor.

“He could diffuse a situation just by walking into the room,” Coughlin said. “He would lower people’s anxiety immediately, just by being there.”

When children were involved, Taylor would lay on the ground next to them to help provide relief eye-to-eye, rather than administering aid while standing over them, looking down. Local kids grew to know Taylor well. He lives across the street from Atwood Elementary School, and at the beginning and end of each school year, he hand-makes signs that say, “We’re so glad you’re back” and “We’ll miss you!”

Oakland Fire Deputy Chief Hardy Taylor extinguishes flames that sprouted after a Libby Hill resident improperly disposed of hot ashes on Nov. 27, 2012. Morning Sentinel file photo

His skill at interacting across generations was also felt in the fire station, where Coughlin said Taylor helped bridge gaps between older and younger members on the approximately 25-person call force.

Taylor said he found rescue work to be extremely rewarding, even though it sometimes caused him to miss his four children’s sports games, school events and Christmas mornings.

“I remember one of the calls when a lady had fell on the library steps and hit her head on the corner of the steps,” Taylor recalled. “I checked her head out and there was no bump, but I told her to still go into the hospital to have it checked out. She said, ‘I can’t go in the ambulance because my car is here.’ I said, ‘Give me your keys, I’ll drive it to the hospital.’ The next day, her husband came to see me at my shop and said, ‘if she hadn’t come in and been checked out, she wouldn’t be alive now because the swelling was going into her brain.'”

When situations had less fortunate outcomes, Taylor tried to provide peace of mind.

“I remember this little girl’s mother — she was not going to make it, and she asked me, ‘Can you keep an eye on my daughter?'” Taylor recalled. He did.

While Taylor said he will still swing by the fire station from time to time even after his retirement, he knew it was time to step down as the construction of the new fire station neared completion. Town officials said the new station, located directly to the left of the old station on Fairfield Street, will likely be complete by the first week of February.

Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Hardy Taylor, 82, left, with his wife, Gloria, at their home, reflects on 60 years of service with the department. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

“I went down one day and got talking with the chief and I said, ‘Well, they’re tearing this building down. Maybe it’s time for me to go,'” Taylor said. He hadn’t yet run the idea by his wife, Gloria.

Coughlin replied, “We have to go talk to Gloria.” She said it would be OK, but as Taylor was quick to point out, decisions about being on the fire squad — or not — are always family decisions.

After 60 years of service — and receiving only a nominal stipend for his leadership as deputy chief — Taylor said he has no regrets.

“I’m a people person, and this was my way of being able to do something for the community,” he said without hesitation.

“To have (Taylor’s) kind of dedication to community is something that we may not see again,” Coughlin said.

At last week’s council meeting, Kelly Roderick proposed gifting Taylor with two slots on the rescue team’s annual trip to New York City, where they visit Ground Zero and other sites. Town Councilors agreed and said that townspeople have been asking to participate in a meaningful way to thank Taylor for his service. Donations can be made this week at the town office or the fire station.

“I think people would be very honored to do that,” Chairman Mike Perkins said.

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