Pictured are (adults) left to right are: Phillip Richardson, Jerry Richardson, Phyllis Richardson, Erin Stuckey, and David Stuckey. Front row (children) left to right are: Luke Richardson, Miller Rose Richardson, and Harrison Stuckey. (Photo by Sandy Webster)
The City of Dillon Fire Department Christmas party held on December 10, 2022, Jerry Richardson was honored for his 55 years of service as a City of Dillon fireman and retired from the Department. In addition to the members of the Fire Department and their spouses and guests, Jerry’s family attended the event. Present were his wife, Phyllis Richardson, daughter, Erin Stuckey and her husband, David Stuckey, son, Phillip Richardson, grandchildren, Miller Rose Richardson, Harrison Stuckey, and Luke Richardson, as well as close family friend, Lucinda Baker. During the evening’s events, Chief Keith Bailey presented Jay Hardwick with his 15-year pin and Cliff Arnette and Don Covington with their 30-year pins, honoring them for their long and faithful service to the City of Dillon and its residents.
Jerry joined the Fire Department as a volunteer fireman on January 3, 1968, when he was eligible to do so upon turning 21 years old. Service to the City of Dillon in this role came naturally to him, as his father, Dave Richardson, served as a volunteer firefighter for the City of Dillon throughout Jerry’s life. Jerry married into a fellow firefighter family when he and his wife Phyllis were married in 1973, as her father, Phil Miller, was a long-time fireman on the City of Dillon Fire Department.
In his early years as a volunteer fireman, when the fire alarm sounded, cars and trucks raced down West Calhoun Street, as Dave and Jerry Richardson, Phil Miller, Ernie Watts, and J.W. Bailey, all of whom lived on the street, would race to see who would make it to the fire first. J.W. Bailey, being able to get out of the house and to his truck more quickly, often won the unofficial race.
On May 7, 1987, Jerry became an engineer for the City of Dillon Fire Department. He served in that role for several decades alongside Donnie Grimsley and Monroe Hinson, alternating 24-hour shifts manning the firehouse and driving the firetruck to fires and other emergencies. His children grew up visiting Jerry at the Fire Department during his shifts, and loved climbing on the firetrucks, playing pool in the workout room, and buying sodas and snacks in the vending machines. Being an engineer comes with its challenges, including the constant planning of events around the on-24 and off-48 schedule, but Jerry loved it and never complained about the unique schedule. A huge map of the City of Dillon hangs in the Department (a necessity before GPS devices and maps available on cell phones), and Jerry’s knowledge of all streets within the city and the quickest route from the station to a particular address was honed through his many years of service.
When Jerry became an engineer, his father Dave was still serving the community as a volunteer firefighter. When the radio sounded with a fire call, instead of listening for the dispatcher to provide the location of the fire, Dave would jump in his truck, drive straight to the fire station on South 8th Avenue, and follow the firetruck to the fire. When Dave passed away in 1994, following his funeral, a City of Dillon firetruck led the procession from the church to the cemetery, reminiscent of Dave’s many years following the City of Dillon firetrucks all over town.
In his 55 years of service, Jerry amazingly only sustained one on-the-job injury, which occurred during the infamous arson string of the summer of 1997. Over a period of weeks, an arsonist lit numerous fires throughout the city. Many times, multiple fires were started in a single night, and the engineers and volunteer fireman split ranks going from fire to fire over extremely long nights. On August 8, 1997, the arsonist set fire to Dunbar Memorial Library on Main Street. While laying hoses and running back to the firetruck to respond to yet another blaze, Jerry tripped over a hose, injuring his ankle. He continued to work that evening to respond to fires, only seeking medical attention after the work for the evening was complete. Knowing that Jerry would not sit still at home to recuperate and would insist that she drive him to fire calls, Phyllis took matters into her own hands and took Jerry to Garden City Beach for a week so that his ankle could heal. Fortunately, this was his only firefighting-related injury in his 55 years of service.
Although he resigned from his engineer position in 2010, Jerry remained on the Department as a volunteer, going to fire calls and mentoring the younger generation of firefighters. Throughout his health challenges following a Parkinson’s diagnosis, firemen from the City of Dillon have faithfully served Jerry and responded whenever he had a need.
We would be remiss to not note that had his life not come to a tragic end on December 12, 2019, beloved City of Dillon firefighter J.W. Bailey would have received his 55-year pin at the celebration on December 10, 2022. J.W.’s presence and friendship are truly missed by the City of Dillon Fire Department family.
CITY OF DILLON FIRE DEPARTMENT MEMBERS—Pictured are Jay Hardwick, Bubba Grimsley, Michael Sapp, Ryan Berry, Kevin Gaddy, Jeff Tanner, Drew Massengale, Gary Bethea, Cliff Arnette, Jerry Richardson, David Willis, Donnie Grimsley, Keith Bailey, Lee Webster, Weston Bailey, and Don Covington. (Photo by Sandy Webster)