By CLINT FOSTER
WEATHERFORD – Santo Volunteer Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services held its annual Christmas and Awards Banquet at Fire Oak Grill in Weatherford, Saturday night, where they honored several individuals for exemplary service.
Chief among the honorees was firefighter and emergency medical technician John Whitley, 81, who was named the 2013 Volunteer of the Year.
Whitley, a 19-year veteran of the Santo VFD, is also an employee of Santo ISD as a bus driver.
“He’s a [military] veteran, he’s very dependable and very well-liked by everyone in the department,” Santo VFD Assistant Public Information Officer Cyndi Smith said. “Even though he’s 81, he doesn’t act it.
“He does every duty asked of him. I’d have him on my ambulance any day. He’s just an all around, fantastic, 100-percent-every-time guy and he’s also very, very humble.
“He was very surprised to be awarded Volunteer of the Year.”
Santo ISD Superintendent Greg Gilbert spoke highly of Whitley as the guest speaker for the banquet.
“John can tell you exactly when he picks up a student, always knows exactly where he is or can use his smart phone to give exact location and has never called in to have substitute drive his route,” he said.
In addition to driving a bus, Smith said Whitley also flies the Santo VFD helicopter with considerable skill. Many other department members offered comments at the event on Whitley’s behalf. Just some of the comments called Whitley humble, a great ambulance driver, great leader and patient and thoughtful of others.
Adding to his honors that night, Whitley also ranked fifth in Santo VFD’s “Top Five Volunteers” that responded to the most calls in 2013. Rounding out the list, in ascending order, where Brett Wright, James Johnson, Sharon Loftin and Logan Loftin.
The Santo Volunteer Fire & EMS is a full volunteer department with 34 members that are trained in fire fighting. Of the 34 members, 14 are certified emergency medical personnel ranging from Emergency Care Attendants to Paramedics. The department provides ambulance service with the capabilities from a basic ambulance to a Mobile Intensive Care Unit. Santo Volunteer Fire & EMS Department serves 122 square miles of Palo Pinto County including Interstate 20 from the Parker County line west to the 376 mile marker and U.S. Highway 281 from the Erath County line to the south and almost to Mineral Wells to the north.