“He eats, he sleeps, he lives for the fire department,” says Carol Ann Breithaupt, known to her friends as Dolly, of her husband Cliff.
Cliff was honored at a special meeting, Monday night by the Saugerties Fire Department’s Exempt Association for his 60 years as an exempt member. The octogenarian, who would only say he’s in his 80s, joined the Glasco Fire Company in 1947, and became an exempt member of the Saugerties Fire Department in 1956.
The Exempt Association is made up of firefighters who have been a part of a fire department or company for at least five years. Once they reached that mark, they enjoy a number of advantages such as being “exempt” from duties, like having to serve as a juror.
Breithaupt was presented with a number of awards Monday night including plaques from the Hudson Valley Volunteer Fireman’s Association, the Hudson/Mohawk Fire Association, the New York State Office of Fire Prevention, and the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.
The plaques were presented by Michael Cesaser of the Hudson Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association, which serves 16 counties from Rockland to Essex along the Hudson River.
“I’ve been a fireman for a long time,” Cliff said. He says he joined because he liked to go to fires when he was younger and liked to fight them when he was older. “I’ve been a fireman since fire trucks had solid rubber tires, since turnout coats were made of rubber rather than the fire protective material they’re made of now.”
He’s also been a firefighter for most of the major fires that shaped the face of Saugerties, including when the mills burned. “The Cantine Mill fire was the biggest,” he says.
And he’s been a firefighter when firehouses such as the Glasco Firehouse and the Partition Street Firehouse burned.
“He’s still over the firehouse in Glasco all the time,” says Dolly.
Cliff and Dolly have also helped raise thousands of dollars for the fire companies over the years. “People could always come to our table outside M&T Bank and get raffle tickets to support the fire department and companies,” she said. “They always knew Cliff and Dolly would be there.”
While Cliff may be too old to still fight fires, the Saugerties Fire Department, the Glasco Fire Company, his wife Dolly and his daughter Carolyn are still the most important parts of his life.