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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bill Pekarski: Day 134, Living life on my terms.

Bill Pekarski:

Day 134, Living life on my terms.

There are not many things better than having good friends. Over the years, I have met so many people from all different walks of life. They have left impressions on me for a wide variety of reasons and I am proud to consider them as friends. Today I want to tell you about a friend who is one of a kind.

He always gives 100% of himself into everything that he does. As a veteran firefighter, I have seen him cut victims from cars, operate the trucks, command a scene, and be there for others at the worst times of their lives. When the chips are down, there are few other people that I would rather have by my side than Brian “BB” Wilson.

I have no clue why his nickname is “BB,” but perhaps it’s short for bold and boisterous. Brian Wilson certainly is both. And the adjectives just begin there. You could tack on outspoken, ubiquitous, fun-loving, humorous, self-confident and far from a shrinking violet.

But there’s a side of Brian that many have not seen.

Brian followed in his father Donald’s footsteps with his involvement in the fire service. He has often spoken about growing up with his father and living at the fire station in Radnor, Pa. The guys around the station used to call him “11-Alarm Charlie.” From an early age he was able to appreciate the amount of work and dedication that the guys put into their craft.

That early exposure can be directly linked to BB’s roughly 35 years here in the Coudersport Volunteer Fire Department. It would be impossible to tally all the hours of training, fundraising, public service, and emergency response time he has logged over those years. Add to that the fact that he has never received a paycheck and it is all the more amazing.

Brian has long been a staunch supporter of training. Too much is never enough and you can never be over-prepared. Together with his brother Bruce, he has sponsored a monetary award in honor of his father to be given to a Coudersport firefighter who pushes to excel through advanced training. The Donald Wilson Award can be used by the recipient to purchase any tools or protective equipment that the winner could make use of in the department.

In his years of service he has served in the capacities of Chief, Assistant Chief, truck operator, regular firefighter, rescue squad, President, and board member. When a job needed done, he was there to help do it. Current Chief Bryan Phelps will affirm that many people just don’t realize how important Brian has been to this community.

There is a funny story that BB likes to tell about the coldest fire response ever. It was the night of the Super bowl, 1986 and there was a fire in downtown Galeton. He drove the ladder truck over Denton Hill in -20 degree or so weather. While this does not sound like too much of a daunting task, you have to realize that at the time, Coudersport’s ladder truck or “Arial” was an open cab with no form of heater. So with no protection other than his gear from the elements, he drove that truck to Galeton and fought the fire. How is that for dedication!

He also served a term as mayor of Coudersport. Brian let it be known from Day One that he was not out to make friends. Recognizing the safety hazard presented by motorists who ignored the pedestrian right-of-way in downtown Coudersport, Brian not only directed borough police to enforce the law, he went right out on the beat with them. He and an officer positioned themselves on the sidewalk at downtown intersections and recorded images and license plate numbers of violators – and there were plenty of them.

When he was a young man, Brian had ambitions to become a professional baseball umpire. His aspirations were partly fulfilled, as he umpired countless amateur and scholastic games. As an umpire, Brian was known to have a short fuse. But on one Sunday afternoon he had second thoughts. A player on the Austin Alle-Catt baseball team who was prone to fly off the handle gave Brian some lip and he threw him out of the game. Needless to say, that only incensed the hothead even more. After an old-fashioned baseball rhubarb, Brian instantly defused the situation by reversing himself and letting the guy return to the game. “Hey, it’s only a game,” he said with a smile.

Over the years, Brian has also been a dependable bus driver for area school systems. He has developed a reputation of being loved and respected by the kids who ride his bus, as well as their parents. He is a caring and cautious driver who thinks that the safety of our kids is the most important part of his job.

On a personal note, after hospital stay at Hamot in Erie last summer, Brian drove up and brought me home upon my discharge. I never had to ask twice; he assured me he would take care of it.

In all honesty, there are so many stories about Brian that I could probably write a book. I could definitely push the boundaries of a simple Facebook post if I wanted to, but for now I will wrap up my thoughts.

Brian and his wife Kathy (who is another person deserving of praise, but that is a story for another time) have purchased a home in Florida and are looking forward to an imminent and well-deserved retirement to the Sunshine State. They will surely be missed by many of us up here in the mountains of Potter County, but I have a hunch they’ll be back from time to time.

Today I am dedicating my progress to a great friend, Brian “BB” Wilson. I hope he enjoys Florida, but I also hope he gets home once in a while too.

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