Ken Scronce listens as family members and co-workers recall his 34-year career in emergency medical services.
Two men who dedicated much of their lives to making Lincoln County a safer place retired last week, ending careers that spanned more than three decades each.
Jerry â€œWhitieâ€ Hoffman with the Lincolnton Fire Department and long-time paramedic Kenneth â€œCuzâ€ Scronce were honored at separate receptions Wednesday.
Jerry â€œWhitieâ€ Hoffman hung up his helmet Wednesday afternoon after 30 years with the Lincolnton Fire Department.
Friends, family and coworkers gathered at the American Legion building to celebrate his career.
Hoffman came to work at the fire department in October of 1974.
â€œHe quickly evolved into an exceptional pump operator and fire fighter,â€ fire Chief Don Wise said.
Within the department, Hoffman began as a driver operator. He progressed to company officer then to assistant chief training officer. He has served as guest instructor at the N.C. Fire College and Pump School and the N.C. State Breathing Equipment School.
Hoffman was Lincoln County Firefighter of the Year in 1987 and helped develop the state outline for driver operator, Wise said.
But Hoffmanâ€™s accomplishments and adventures with Wise werenâ€™t strictly work related. Wise spoke of hunting trips, bachelor parties and holiday celebrations that made guests laugh in remembrance.
â€œHe was an outstanding employee,â€ said Wise. â€œIt is a big loss for the department and the city.â€
Hoffman was presented with a plaque from the city of Lincolnton by Mayor Bobby Huitt.
Wise presented Hoffman with a brass helmet and a pat on the back and commended him on a job well done.
â€œWhitie, you left it a better place than you found it.â€
In retirement Hoffman plans to work with his brother in the carpentry business. He said his time at the department has been a valuable piece of his life.
â€œIâ€™m the luckiest man in the world. Iâ€™ve gotten to do what I love to do, and I got paid for it.â€
Ken Scronce leaned back, his arm resting on the back of his metal chair, as one by one, his friends, family and co-workers praised his work in emergency services. Some wiped tears from their eyes as they spoke.
Scronce retired from Lincoln County EMS after serving the county for 34 years. A reception was held in his honor Wednesday at EMS headquarters.
Scronce started out with the countyâ€™s ambulance service in 1970.
Mike Keller, EMS operations manager, has known Scronce since the early â€™80s. His leadership is what stands out in his mind.
â€œKen Scronce was always the quintessential leader in our organization,â€ Keller said. â€œHe portrayed true leadership that you unquestionably followed.â€
Keller also reminisced about Scronceâ€™s cleanliness.
â€œThe man was going to say we were going to clean, and we enthusiastically followed his example and cleaned,â€ he said.
â€œIf I had two words that would sum up his career, it would be â€˜well done.â€™â€
EMS Supervisor Mike Turner partnered with Scronce for two years.
â€œI never learned more in my life than in those two years,â€ he said.
Former co-worker Dean Hastings even named his youngest son after Scronce.
Ron Rombs, EMS director, said he considers Scronce a pioneer in the field. Lincoln County has been blessed to have someone of his caliber to step up to the plate and take on numerous challenges, he said.
Scronce remembered when he first started out and made just $65 a week. The schedule was tough, and paramedics had to work 24 hours, then had the next 24 hours off. Scronce thanked the county for its recent decision to switch to 12-hour shifts.
Those in the room agreed that Scronceâ€™s influence on EMS will not be forgotten.
Rombs said when he first came to Lincoln County, he instantly took to Scronce.
â€œIt took all of about two hours of being here â€¦ thereâ€™s one face that stood out in the crowd, and that was Ken Scronce,â€ he said.
Jerry Hoffman, left, and Lincolnton Fire Chief Don Wise talk during a reception Wednesday. Jenny Walling / LTN Photoby Alice Smith and Diane Turbyfill