Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services honored volunteer fire fighters who have died in the line of duty with portraits painted by a recent Ellicott City high school graduate.
At a ceremony on Monday's James N. Robey Public Safety Training night, portraits of five men from the Ellicott City and Lisbon branches were unveiled before families of the fallen, current members of the volunteer fire departments from Howard County, and the community.
Each of the men lost his life in the 1950's and 60’s. The portraits of Capt. Charles Ditch, Lt. Joseph Stigler, firefighter William Brightwell, firefighter Robery Clary and firefighter Raymond Mills will now be part of the history of the HCDFRS, as well as reminders of what the men sacrificed, according to Fire Chief William Goddard.
Family members said they were surprised at how truly accurate the portraits were once the curtains had been drawn away.
“It’s like he could jump out of the picture. It’s a perfect likeness,” says Beverly Ditch, daughter of Capt. Ditch.
It means a great deal to her that these portraits will hang in honor of the men who lost their lives, she said.
“Each of these individuals were truly heroes. Not because of the way they died, but because of the way they lived their lives,” Goddard said.
The portraits were created by Chelsea Allen, a recent graduate of the Applications and Research Laboratory.
“What better way to work on portraiture skills than doing community service as well?” Allen said. In order to create portraits of men she never met she used a collection of photographs. She then drew the portraits by hand, scanned these drawings into her computer and used a program to create paintings which were printed on canvass.
“The work took her three months, about sixty hours,” said HCDFRS Jackie Cutler. One portrait remained to be finished, that of firefighter William Brightwell. It will be completed next year and join the other portraits on display.
Goddard also stressed the importance of honoring the firefighters who have been lost by doing something to prevent similar tragedies. In 2011, he began a set of 16 initiatives from the National Fallen Firefighter's Foundation as well as a few other programs.
“I believe I have found my purpose and that purpose is to send everyone home every day,” said Goddard.
The HCDFRS just received the National Seal of Excellence from the NFFF for its efforts.
This article had been edited to correct the name of the National Fallen Firefighter's Foundation.