OAKLAND — Below-freezing temperatures were no match for a community determined to gather Saturday and celebrate the retirement of a deputy fire chief who served Oakland for six decades.

Harland “Hardy” Taylor, 82, retired earlier this month after 60 years of service to the town. Taylor’s party at Williams Elementary School was attended by family, friends, local firefighters, community members and town officials, who quickly filled the school’s cafeteria to share their congratulations and well-wishes.

Longtime Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Hardy Taylor, center, is greeted by local firefighters and community members Saturday during his retirement celebration.

Taylor was escorted to the reception by Oakland’s Engine 4, where he was met with a tunnel of firefighters.

Taylor received several letters of recognition, including a letter of congratulations signed by Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, Senate Secretary Derek Grant and House Clerk Robert Hunt; a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Maine Emergency Medical Services; and letters from Congressman Jared Golden and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

“While your retirement is certainly well deserved, I am sure you will be missed by those who have benefited from your wisdom and dedication,” Collins wrote. “Firefighters such as yourself play an absolutely essential role in so many small, rural communities in our state.”

Taylor first attempted to join the Oakland Fire Department when he was 14 years old, but the chief at the time, Ed Pullen, told him that while he could tag along on fire calls, he would have to be at least 18 to become an official member.

In 1960, Taylor was formally recognized as a member of the fire squad and by the 1980s, he was named assistant chief; in 2000, he was named deputy chief.

Though the event was held to celebrate Taylor’s dedication and commitment to the town over the course of his life, Taylor spent a greater portion of the celebration acknowledging others that have helped him along the way, including dispatchers and colleagues.

“You’ve always been behind me,” Taylor said.

Oakland Fire Chief David Coughlin presented Taylor with a distinguished service medal to recognize his time, dedication and impact during his 60-year tenure.

“From the Oakland Fire Department, we want to recognize Hardy for his six decades of service,” Coughlin said. “To put that in perspective, he has served three generations on the department.”

Coughlin said that Taylor has worked with him, as well as his father and grandfather during his years with the department. Coughlin joked that during his time, Taylor has seen every truck replaced at the department twice and has spent more money than any other deputy chief.

“A lot of people cannot even comprehend the time that someone has given to a community over a 60-year period,” Coughlin said. “He has affected so many people in a positive way. When someone heard Hardy’s voice, he just brings so much calm to any situation, and not many people can say that they can do that.”

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