MANNING - Clarendon County firefighters had a bittersweet year in 2017.
"We had a lot of accomplishments," Clarendon County Fire Chief Frances Richbourg told the attendees at her department's annual awards and Christmas dinner. "It was a good year, but it was a tough year. We lost a lot of good friends. We're a close family here. I treasure each and every one of you."
One of those losses was Battalion 1 Chief H.P. "Mutt" Bozard, who lost a short battle with cancer in July 2017. Members of his family, including his wife, Lynne; his son, Bo; his daughter, Ashton, and others presented the Clarendon County Fire Department with a plaque recognizing the "H.P. 'Mutt' Bozard Firefighter Assistance Program."
"I was closest to Daddy in this setting," Ashton said during the presentation. "His passion was the Clarendon County Fire Department. The fire department has always been a part of our family. When the tone went out, we knew Daddy would be going."
Ashton used a quote from Mother Teresa in remembering her father: "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."
Richbourg received the plaque on behalf of the department.
"He meant a lot to us," she said. "He was a big part of this department. We will never forget him. The quote from Mother Teresa described him perfectly."
The newest recruit class, 17-02, took the firefighter oath at the dinner. Firefighter Sean Briley was recognized as the firefighter with the highest average. Nelson Gibbons received the Leadership Award. Austin Atkinson was the Instructors' Choice, and Jeffrey Puckett received the Most Improved Award.
Firefighter Curtis McFaddin received the department's 2017 Rookie of the Year award. The recipient of this award is chosen by fellow firefighters.
Years of service awards were given out to recipients in five-year increments beginning with five years. There was one firefighter who has been on the job for 30 years, Dennis Kropf. Three were recognized with 35 years of service: CCFD Deputy Chief Carl Floyd, Carroll Harrington and Glen Costello. Two firefighters have been working fires in Clarendon County since 1977: former CCFD Fire Chief Carter Jones and firefighter Alfred Breedin.
Three firefighters were inducted into the Clarendon County Fire Department's Hall of Fame: Johnny Boxley, Michael Brooks and Michael Johnson.
The Anita Brown Citizenship Award recipient was Robert L. Ridgeway or OB1 as he's known on the fire grounds. Ridgeway wears many hats within the department and within the county. He's an obstetrician. He represents House District 64 at the statehouse. He's a leader in his church, and he's also the department's medical adviser.
"Anita Brown left behind a great legacy of service," Richbourg said. "Bobby best embodies those qualities manifested by Brown."
When accepting the award, Ridgeway told the other firefighters in the room that they deserved the award too.
"You're my family," he said, gesturing to the firefighters in the room. "You are my family."
Ed Gamble, a Manning native who now lives and works in Savannah, was presented the 2017 Officer of the Year award.
"He is a very valuable member of this department," Richbourg said. "He goes to more calls than some firefighters who live here."
Hunter Morris was presented with the 2017 Firefighter of the Year award.
"He has a full-time firefighter job in another county," Richbourg said. "He responded to 150 incidents in Clarendon County this past year. If he's at home and a call comes out in Clarendon County, you'll see him pull up to the fire in Engine 101."