Chief Jerry Gore had no idea of the celebration taking place inside of Lake Waccamaw Fire and Rescue Department in his honor until he and wife Anne Gore pulled up to the waiting crowd of well-wishers outside.
A live band, Tommy and the Box Turtles, were playing classic rock and beach music tunes, and Joe’s Barbecue could be smelled in the air.
“I thought we were going to eat Dale’s Seafood!” Gore exclaimed with a smile as he shook hands and accepted hugs from well-wishers.
Gore is retiring after 15 years of dedicated service to the town’s fire and rescue department. Gore became chief in 2013, and was the department’s first full time chief in its 110-year history.
A surprise party was thrown May 20 by the department and the community of Lake Waccamaw to congratulate the chief on his retirement and to remind him of not only how far he has brought the department, but to thank him on his hard work and commitment throughout the years.
When Gore took over the department eight years ago, LWVFD was facing multiple obstacles ranging from lack of equipment to lack of experience. At the suggestion of the state Fire Marshal’s office, the department essentially started over from scratch. With help from town Mayor Daniel Hilburn and other local fire departments, he brought Station 9 up to par, and provided the town with a team of first responders they could count on.
The surprise party featured stories by friends, firefighters and family, but none more heartfelt than what Gore himself had to say. Always known for his wit and humor, he went around the room and shared his favorite memories of those in attendance.
He introduced newly-appointed Chief Barney Tyler, thanked Bolton Fire Chief Bryant Smith, and shared a tearful exchange of honor and respect with Hilburn.
Gore was presented with a plaque with a helmet shield that read “2013-2021 Retired Chief Gore,” and a mounted fire axe decorated with a Maltese cross commending him on his years of service.
His wife Anne Gore was also awarded a plaque as Chief Gore’s retiring “Assistant Chief”. The couple also received a weekend getaway at a Myrtle Beach resort, and two white rocking chairs to begin their retirement years.
Gore referred his fellow members and their spouses as “brothers and sisters,” and talked about how much of a commitment they had made to the department. He hadn’t just gained a team he says. He had gained a family.
While Gore had previously joked about giving up the fire service, his last words at the surprise party made it official.
“I’m retiring!” Gore said.