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Catrow recognized for 60 years of service

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Mar 5, 2021

From left, Craig "Twiggy" Simpson, president of Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department, stands with Leon Catrow, who was recently honored for his 60 years of service to the department. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department normally honors its members at an annual banquet; however, the onset of COVID-19 last March put a hold on that banquet. Had the annual awards ceremony taken place last March, top honors would have gone to some long-time members.

Rather than wait to see if restrictions on gatherings will be lessened this year, the department recently gathered to celebrate 60 years of service for member Leon Catrow. Catrow was presented with a plaque and jacket in January, nearly a year past his 60-year mark.

“I joined in June of 1959, when I was 18 years old. I had a buddy, Wayne Boyer, who kept saying he was joining, so we joined together,” Catrow said, mentioning Boyer later died in the Vietnam War.

“I had to have my parents sign, which you had to do unless you were 21,” Catrow said of joining the department. “My dad just asked me, ‘Boy, do you know what you’re getting into?'”

Catrow did, in fact, know, and has remained an active member since that time, serving in various positions over the years, including chief engineer just three year after joining the department.

“That meant taking care of equipment,” he said.

At the time, the station was located at the corner of New Street and King Street and had two pieces of apparatus.

Throughout his tenure, Catrow served in other capacities, including as assistant chief for more than 35 years. He then served as chief from 1999 to 2005. He was also responsible for overseeing countless hours of training for department members over the years, serving as training officer for not only Shepherdstown, but also at times the state of West Virginia.

According to Catrow, when he joined the department things were done differently than they are today. Before he was married, Catrow would receive a call from SVFD member Charlie Jones’ wife whenever the sirens went off, because he could not hear them from his parent’s home in Shenandoah Junction.

“This was before we had monitors. Charlie’s wife would call no matter what time of night,” he said explaining his mother would then wake him to tell him he had a call.

After high school, he owned and operated a local garage, Leon’s City Service, later Citgo, until 1966. He then went to work for W.H. Knode, and when the fire alarm sounded, he left work to respond.

“Everyone did that then,” he said.

Following his marriage to his wife, Barbara, in 1967, Catrow moved into town, where it was easier to hear the sirens.

In addition to running fire calls, Catrow said that he also served as a “first aider” and ran ambulance calls.

“That was before you had to be an EMT or paramedic,” he said.

Throughout the years, Catrow served as a role model for many at the department.

Craig “Twiggy” Simpson, who is now president of Company 3, said when he was still a junior member, Catrow lent him the money to purchase his first scanner.

“My family didn’t have a lot of money,” Simpson said. “It meant a lot to me.”

Catrow said he did the same for other department members who needed the assistance.

“The quicker we get people here, the quicker we get out,” Catrow said, explaining away his generous nature.

“I’ve never regretted a minute of it,” Catrow said, of his now more than 60 years with the SVFD.

“It’s the best fire department in Jefferson County and in the state of West Virginia. These guys do a tremendous job — because I trained them right,” he laughed.

In addition to that training, Fire Chief Ross Morgan said the company’s slogan found on all its equipment can also be attributed to Catrow. Catrow said the slogan, “Over 225 years of service by trained volunteers,” was developed by his wife. He also gave her credit for supporting him all the years of his service.

“My wife has put up with a lot of stuff with meal these years. There were nights she had just put dinner on the table, and a call would come and out I’d go. She never said a word,” he said, stressing that you have to have support in a marriage to succeed in that kind of work.