Chief Meliski retires after 30 years
Buck Meliski told a group of his peers Tuesday night he never really wanted to be a fireman. "I just wanted to help people," he said.
But, after more than 30 years served as fire chief of the Chimney Rock Fire Department, he has helped hundreds.
Meliski was recognized by fellow firefighter friends from Chimney Rock, Hickory Nut Gorge and Rutherford County during a brief retirement cermeony.
He received his white fire chief's hat, a statue for firefighters and golf clubs from the department and friends in the village.
"It has been great and I've enjoyed it . . most every minute of it, but I'm not going away," Meliski said. "I'll still be here." He will remain an active firefighter.
Several people addressed Meliski and his wife Barbara, Chimney Rock Village mayor, during the ceremony. One reason for the retirement is to travel with Barbara and spent more time with family and their grandchild in Atlanta, Ga.
Bob Wald, Mayor Pro-Tem for Chimney Rock Village said "on behalf of the 113 citizens of Chimeny Rock, 'thank you'. You are the epitome of a public servant. As the chief, you were always available and cooperative and you didn't ask anything of others you wouldn't do yourself. We owe you a debt of gratitude."
Bat Cave Fire Chief Richard Barnwell, Bill's Creek Fire Chief Jim Howell, Lake Lure Fire Coordinator Ron Morgan and Rutherford County Fire Marshal Roger Hollifield, were among those who thanked him for the service to the community and county.
"We have been very fortunate to have Buck to help us. If it wasn't for each other I don't know what we'd do," Barnwell said. "Small departments can't do it without their neighbors."
Howell said Meliski has always been dedicated and the "behind the scenes" duties will never be known.
Howell recalled the Rocky Broad River flood in 1996 when firefighters were awakened in the middle of the night to rescue people from campgrounds and homes across the river.
"He was getting those people across the river when there was mud dripping onto his merchandise in his shop," Howell said. "He forgot about his own stuff and tried to take care of others. He put others first."
Mary Jaeger-Gale, general manager of Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and long time friend of Meliski said, "We think of you as one of us. What a leader you are. You've led the team. . . You've always been there for us."
Jaeger-Gale also thanked Barbara for being there for the village and the park.
Lake Lure Fire Coordinator Ron Morgan described the couple as "Mr. and Mrs. Chimney Rock."
Barbara admitted she wouldn't miss the telephone calls at 2 a.m. "The phone was always on my side of the bed and I'd just say, 'here'."
Firefighter and former mayor, Peter O'Leary, said Meliski was always there regardless of the politics.
Young firefighter Chris Melton said Meliski is his mentor. "He lives a life that shows devotion and dedication.
The Meliski's son, Jay Meliski, said as a young boy he heard the sounds of the siren and the telphone ringing in the early hours of the morning, and "saw my dad squealing down the street."
"He's been an inspiration to me and the driving force in me and behind this fire department," Jay said.
Jay told his parents to enjoy living and take some time to relax.