Patrick C. Murphy’s fondest memory is of driving the New Hyde Park ambulance truck when a baby was born — the first baby delivered in an ambulance truck.
Henry J. Harden remembers responding to his first fire in 1962 — eight months after he joined the New Hyde Fire Department.
It is those kinds of memories that continue to push the two men to keep on volunteering.
Murphy, 74, and Harden, 71, were honored Saturday night for their 50 years of service in Protection Engine No. 2 of the New Hyde Park Fire Department. They arrived to the event at the New Hyde Park Inn riding in an antique 1940s fire truck.
The two firefighters, who joined the department in 1961 and are still active, describe it as a brotherhood.
“I have to take a physical every year and every year, I’m classified as a Class A firefighter,” Harden said. “That means I can go into a burning building and rescue. I’m 71.”
Murphy stands at 5 feet, 6 inches tall. But his height never stopped him from moving up the ladder in the New Hyde Park Fire Department.
“I took the city fire department test many years ago, and passed,” Murphy said. “But, the physical test had height requirements back then and they didn’t accept me.”
He became chief driver in 1964 and in 1980 became chief of the New Hyde Park Fire Department. From 1992 to 1993, Murphy served as fire commissioner of Nassau County and a year later, he was appointed Nassau County Fire District Association president.
“I’m retired now, but I have two grandchildren and the firehouse to keep me going,” Murphy said.
The firehouse is the glue that keeps the firefighters motivated.
“My favorite part is just hanging around the guys, the younger guys,” Harden said. “They make me feel young.”
Harden reluctantly joined the fire department in 1961. He recalls being pressured into joining by his wife and her two uncles. But, he never regretted it.
“I’m glad I did it. I totally love being a volunteer, Harden said. “My son Peter is a volunteer at the department. All my children wanted to join.”
Volunteering takes courage said Deputy Chief James J. Kane.
“They are still active members,” Kane said. “That’s what makes them so special.”
The firefighters were given 50-year jackets along with numerous awards for their continuous volunteer services.
“Volunteers never go away, those who get paid go away,” said Susan Fogg, 42, daughter of Patrick Murphy. “Volunteers want to be there. Its their inner drive to serve.”
Caption: Henry J. Harden, 71, left, and Patrick C. Murphy, 74, are honored at the New Hyde Park Inn for their 50 years of service in Protection Engine No. 2 of the New Hyde Park Fire Department. (Sept. 24,2011)