Pine Island Fire Chief David Bradley's last day will be Thursday, March 6, 2014.
"I am moving to Louisiana once I get everything organized here," Bradley said. "This island has been good to me and I'm going to miss this."
Like many boys in the 1950s, Bradley became interested in fire trucks.
From left, Steven Jobe, Matt Davis, Lucas Cesario, John Cook, Chief Bradley, Benjamin Mickuleit and Michael Welchman.
"When I was a kid in Louisiana, there was a fire station down the street and I would hang around," Bradley said. "But at that time, family and friends were waiting for those jobs and unless you had a family member already on the department, it was hard to get your foot in the door.
Eventually Bradley made his way to Pine Island.
"I came here with some friends in 1979," he said. "They were friends of my future wife's family. That's how I met my wife. When my friends left, I stayed. The community opened their arms to me and I got in as a volunteer fireman. I love this island."
Over the years, Bradley worked his way up through the ranks at the island fire department.
"I've been here 35 years total and really enjoyed my job," Bradley said. "Starting out as a volunteer and working my way up. This is a great community and the core island people are still here and appreciate what we do. That makes a difference ... the thank yous ... the pat on the back that we all like to have from time to time.
"One of the highlights of my career was when the people of the island supported me a few years ago," he said. "They'd come up to me and thank me for something I had done for them years ago that I didn't even remember. You touch lives in this job and sometimes make a difference without even knowing it."
"One of the hardest things is when you know the people involved. There might be a death or a severe injury and you know the family. As a professional you have to put your feelings aside but I'm finding that as I get older I am more emotional about these things. It's become more difficult to "detach" myself."
Several hundred people arrived at the fire station for the chief's retirement party last Wednesday.
"Unfortunately my wife can't be here today," Bradley said. "You know the saying 'behind every man there's a woman.' You know you can't do your career without that support and she's supported me all these years and I wish she could be here with me. I would love for her to be here but she's taking care of my mother in Louisiana about 1,000 miles away.... but she knows.
Bradley has seen - and directed - many changes in the department over the years.
"This department has changed so much," Bradley said. "When I first walked in, this was a very small building with two garage doors. We would buy surplus military trucks and build fire trucks out of them. In 1983 we did some modifications and then some more until what you see today. Back when I started there was only one paid employee and now we have nine every day. And we now have three stations.
"I'm going to miss it but times have changed and Deputy Chief Joe Marzella will become chief and he's got some excellent ideas," Bradley added. "I think he will take the department to the next level."