Hanover Fire Deputy Chief Stone concludes long career
HANOVER — Deputy Fire Chief Barbara Stone, a Hanson native, retired last week after an astounding 33 years in the fire service. Her journey into retirement and new zest for adventures has already begun — she certainly is not sitting down.
Following her Dec. 10 official sendoff and retirement from the town of Hanover, Stone was heading to Arlington National Cemetery to volunteer for a holiday tradition Wreaths Across America in which volunteers lay holiday wreaths over the graves of those who have lost their lives in their service to our country.
A 1974 Whitman-Hanson graduate, Stone (neé MacDonald) grew up in Hanson on Monroe Street. She described herself as a well-known jock, always busy with clubs and the school band. She intended to be a gym teacher but found that career opportunities were not thriving.
“I worked with Whitman recreation and was talking with some of the Whitman firefighters. Tim Travers (retired Whitman chief) was a friend and classmate. The guys encouraged me to go for EMS training,” she said.
Her journey began in both her career and continuing education.
Stone was nominated for the Whitman-Hanson Wall of Fame by her parents approximately a decade later. She received a place on the Wall, where alumni who have achieved distinct and unique milestones following their education at W-H are honored.
“I was excited to be recognized for those accomplishments [in the fire service] and to join a very elite group of alumni,” said Stone.
Her natural teaching skills aided in her advancement in civil service where she became the first fire prevention officer for Hanover Fire Department, and received the Massachusetts Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year award in 2004.
Stone was aware of the equality issue between men and women firefighters in a predominately male career but she never felt it was an obstacle.
“There may have been challenges early on but as far as acceptance, I always fit right in,” she said.
As a woman in the fire services as well as prevention officer Stone has been a strong presence in the schools. She does believe she has been a positive role model for girls.
“Work hard and be whatever you want to be,” she advises. “My daughter and her friends always knew I was a firefighter. Over the years the number has grown with females in the fire services. I am a woman and a firefighter. I do my job. There was never an issue for me whether being a firefighter was a male or female occupation.”
As a mentor and a support system her first captain, Tom O’Toole, always treated her with evenhandedness, which she also felt made an impact on the females who started when she did.
“I have been lucky to have worked with [retired Chief] Ken Blanchard and current Chief Jeff Blanchard,” Stone said. “They have supported my strength, and allowed me to grow.”
She also worked for a time under the late Chief Bud Blanchard and retired Chief Steve Tucker.
Behind the scenes Stone has organized dozens of conferences and open houses related to public safety and education.
One anecdote she shared from her early career was returning to an out-of town firehouse following a structure fire.
“Everyone took off their sooty turnout gear, and we were going to eat Chinese food for dinner,” she said. “Someone said ‘Oh my God. It’s a girl.’”
She still laughs when she tells the story.
“I would like to think because I worked just as hard as any other firefighter, not only did I fit in, but truly was welcomed,” Stone says.” When it came to the job being done- that was what the bottom line was. Do your job. I did my job.”
Over her 33 years Stone has responded to countless calls, including a major fire on Christmas Eve in 1986 when the St. Andrew’s church burned down.
“It affected many people,” she said.
She more happily recalls the achievements of Young Heroes — a program that recognizes children who used their 911 fire prevention knowledge to make a difference some even saving the lives of family members.
“Those are the things that stand out in my mind in my career,” she said. “I was effective in educating children who were able to perform a positive action.”
Retirement for Stone holds animated adventures.
“I am a fanatic of all things Disney. I will really be looking forward to going to Disneyworld,” she said.
Married to her husband Henry Stone for 30 years they have two adult children, a son and daughter.
With family in numerous states they are planning on visiting many. Her elderly parents reside in Florida. They need some assistance and she is also looking forward to spending time with them.
“I am into photos and scrapbooking. I enjoy it and will have time to do the things I want. I am looking forward to not wearing a uniform. I am a jeans, T-shirt and sneakers girl. I will be happy to wear something other than boots,” she said smiling.