Patsy Nestor got the ride of her life March 29 when she took a spin around Tigard in Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's Engine 51 out of the Burnham Street station.
The trip included a stop at Tigard American Legion Post 158, where Nestor, a veteran, is a longtime member, plus a tour of Station 51. Firefighters provided Nestor with door to door service, picking her up at her Tigard home and dropping her off after the tour.
Nestor originated the legion's Firefighter of the Year and Police Officer of the Year programs, which honor a Tigard officer and firefighter each year at its Americanism dinner in late February, and at this year's event, she said her bucket list included a ride on a fire engine.
Luckily, TVF&R Division Chief Allen Kennedy was sitting in the audience, and he made arrangements for Nestor to take a ride March 29. Station Capt. Craig Lyon wanted to be part of the experience so the ride was arranged for a day when he and his crew were on duty.
The crew washed the engine just before heading to Nestor's apartment complex, and when the giant "bucket truck" showed up in the parking lot, she said, "I thought they would bring the small truck."
Accompanying Kennedy was TVF&R Public Information Officer Kim Haughn, who provided Nestor with a zippered TVF&R sweatshirt. The crew hoisted Nestor up into her seat and put on headphones so she could participate in their conversation while driving around.
Nestor requested a stop at the legion post, where Susan Hughes, second vice commander, and several other members came out to see her before she went inside for a few minutes.
The engine drove by TV&R's headquarters on Dartmouth Street so Nestor could see where Chief Mike Duyck works and then headed back to the spotless station. The crew gave Nestor a tour of the recently remodeled station that includes a new workout room and dining area.
Nestor said she had been in the station before it was remodeled, and her favorite room beyond a doubt was the "LA-Z-BOY room," where a circle of the comfy chairs surrounds a television set adorned with unicorns. "I love this – this is where I would spend all my time," said Nestor, who learned that the unicorn is the station mascot.
She settled back in a chair that almost swallowed her, noting as she got up, "It takes two firefighters to get me out." Kennedy laughed, "They will suck the life out of you."
Nestor was impressed with the workout room and the huge 50-pound weights. "Does anybody use these big ones?" she asked
Nestor also liked the large kitchen, and Kennedy joked that a "requirement to be a firefighter is that they have to cook and clean."
Nestor told the crew that she had appreciated firefighters and wanted to ride on a fire engine since she was small. "When I was a kid, my brother set a big fire, and I was blown back," she said. "We had a nosy neighbor, and she called the fire department. There was someone behind me, and I turned around and it was a firefighter in his tall boots.
"They contained the fire. That was my first up-close experience with a firefighter."
Standing in the "LA-Z-BOY room," Nestor said, "This takes me back to my childhood, and now I've gotten to do something the rest of my family never got to do. I've had a ball, and if I went tomorrow, I can say after this that I can die happy."
Nestor later shared a little about her life growing up in Bend. Her oldest brother served in the Navy during World War II, and her other brother joined the Army in 1950; Nestor's mother, wanting her to join one of the services, brought home brochures from all five branches.
"I was working as a waitress and didn't want to do that for the rest of my life," said Nestor, who one day went to the recruiting offices and learned that the Women's Army Corps required the shortest commitment – three years.
"I wasn't going to give up four years of my life, so I joined the Women's Army Corps in 1951," she said. While in the service, Nestor was trained as a dental technician.
Following her stint in the service, Nestor went to work as a dental technician in Portland where in May 1956 when she was "between boyfriends," she met her future husband Woody at LaVoy's western restaurant where truck drivers hung out.
Woody, who had served in the Army during WWII, was a truck driver, and Nestor had told her mother she would never marry a truck driver. "I told my mother in July that I wasn't going to marry him but we got married in September," Nestor said.
She quit working in December because in the three months they had been married, they only spent two days together because of their conflicting work schedules. They moved to Multnomah and later joined the Tigard Legion, where they held multiple offices between them.
"I was post commander, district commander, department vice commander and department commander," Nestor said. "I've held a lot of posts and district-level posts."
Woody died in April 2008, seven months after they celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary. "The Legion is like a second family," Nestor said. "When Woody died, they stepped in. Without them, I don't know what I would have done."
When Nestor wanted to started the annual award program for police officers and firefighters, she had to go to the top -- to TVF&R Chief Jeff Johnson and Tigard Police Department Chief Ron Goodpaster -- to get it going.
"Over the years when they brought the fire trucks to the Legion, I always looked at them and wished I could take a ride on one," Nestor said. "I think I mentioned it before, but this was the year I really wanted to do it. I turned 85 in March. Chief Kennedy and Kim set it up, and it was even better than I expected."