Patty Cormier, left, and Stephan Bunker, both Farmington firefighters, will participate in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1 along with the Maine chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which is sponsoring a float honoring America’s first responders. Submitted photo

FARMINGTON — Farmington firefighters Stephan Bunker and Patty Cormier will be ringing in the New Year in a special way as they head for the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Their all-expenses paid trip to ride on a first responders float in the Jan. 1 parade was an unexpected surprise from the Maine Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a national organization that promotes personal and social development and the principles of friendship, truth and love. The Rebekahs are a branch of the organization.

Longtime Rebekah member Michele Trynor of South Portland came up with the idea following the Sept. 16 explosion at the LEAP building in Farmington that killed Capt. Michael Bell and seriously wounded several firefighters. She was determined to let the firefighters know that they were not alone in their pain, and that she and many others in the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs were thinking of them.

In 2019, IOOF and Rebekahs celebrated the organization’s 200th anniversary as a benevolent and charitable organization. Trynor and her husband traveled to the Rose Parade where the national organization sponsored one of the many floats. She learned that this year the organization was again sponsoring a float, this time with a theme of recognizing first responders in America.

The float design will be a huge fire truck. Organization leaders will be riding, along with a select number of sponsored firefighters.

Trynor was able to gather enough funds to help support the float, secure a coveted position on the float for a rider from Maine, and cover all travel expenses for two firefighters and herself to attend. After Trynor spoke with the fire department, Acting Fire Chief Tim Hardy chose Bunker and Cormier to represent the department on the float.

“Out of our tragedy, there have been so many blessings,” Bunker said. “So much caring and goodwill has poured in. The generosity of the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs organization is a real morale booster to our department.”

“It’s a real honor to represent such a great group of firefighters; I wish they could all be there with us,” Cormier added.

Bunker, Cormier and Trynor will head to California on Dec. 31 to help put the final touches on the float and observe the judging prior to the parade. Cormier will ride on the float, and has been practicing her official “hand wave.” Bunker and Trynor will be in a special reserved grandstand, along with dignitaries from the many state chapters.

The parade is set to kick off Jan. 1 at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, 11 a.m. on the east coast for those who want to watch on television. The float is expected to be the 64th unit in line, one of dozens of floats, marching bands and equestrian groups.

Bunker will try to send updates and lots of photos to friends back home, he said.

For more information about the Rose Parade, part of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, visit https://tournamentofroses.com/events/about-rose-parade/#about.

For information about the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, visit www.iooftn.org/history.htm.

Patty Cormier is the Director of the Maine Forest Service. She and her husband, John Cormier run Kennebec Home Brew Supplies in Farmington.

Stephan Bunker, retired from the state of Maine Emergency Services Communication Bureau, is a longtime Farmington selectman and 1st Vice Commander of Roderick-Crosby American Legion Post 28 in Farmington.


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