By Ryan Berry
VERONA – It’s good to have friends and supporters. That is what the Verona Volunteer Fire Department found to be true on Thursday evening.
A special meeting with current and former firefighters, residents and village officials was called for a special announcement at the fire house. Chief Ray Rayburg proudly announced the department received a memorial gift from Joe and Susan Miller. The donation was a staggering $168,000. Debbie Norman, Susan’s cousin, and Richard Miller, Joe’s brother, proudly presented the check from the couple’s estate.
Joe began a long journey with the department starting in 1962. He stayed with the department until his death in 2015 and for a few years in the early 2000s when he was dealing with health issues. Susan stood by his side throughout his years of service and was a strong supporter of the department. She passed away in 2021.
Chief Rayburg said that Joe was known by Mr. Fixit and could create anything the department needed. The chief said, “That man was dedicated to this department and this town.”
When presenting the check Norman said, “He was very dedicated to this town. He loved this fire department. Susan loved the fire department. So did Jeff. I have the great honor of carrying out all of their wishes when they passed away. They were very generous and very worried about the fire department. They wanted me to give this to you. I hope this will really help.”
Chief Rayburg responded, “He will long be remembered and not forgotten. He would have never been forgotten anyway. There are too many things around here that he fixed and done. Anything you can dream of, he could make.”
The funds will be used to help build a new building for the department. The building will be at the edge of town and they are hoping to start work early next year.
Rayburg was unsure as to how long the department has been at the current location, but it is believed to be around the time or shortly after that they became officially established in 1924. However, with the size and amount of equipment, the department long ago grew out of the current building.
The chief said it was his mission 20 years ago when he became chief to build a new building. The donation, according to Rayburg, will “pretty much seal it.”
As for a member of the community stepping up like the Millers did, Chief Rayburg said, “I can’t put it into words (at what it means). It’s overwhelming, to say the least. It makes me feel very humble.”
The Verona Volunteer Fire Department has eight certified firefighters and several others working on certification. “We may be small in numbers,” Rayburg said, “but if there’s a call – they’re here.”
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].