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Hudson Fire Chief Varnes reflects on first nine months on the job

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published: February 16, 2014 12:00 AM
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Hudson -- Most employees hitting the nine-month mark on a new job are still trying to get a feel of the environment, fellow workers and job description.

But some people, like Fire Chief Jerry Varnes, fit into their position like a well-worn work glove. For Varnes, who was appointed full-time chief of Hudson's Fire Department May 15, his more than 30 years of training made for a near seamless transition from assistant to head firefighter.

"I have dreamed of doing this job for many years and am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the Hudson Fire Department into the future," Varnes, a fifth-generation firefighter, said. "I get to work with dedicated people that have such drive and passion that they volunteer to risk their lives for the citizens of Hudson. I consider the members of the Hudson Fire Department my second family."

Varnes is not the first member of his family to serve as a firefighter.

"A member of my family has served in the fire service for over 100 years," Varnes said. "My parents raised me with the mindset that you work hard and give back to your community. I proudly carry on the traditions I learned from my father, Bill Varnes, who gave 42 years to the Hudson Fire Department retiring as assistant chief."

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Varnes joined the department in 1978 as a volunteer. He also volunteered at Hudson EMS for 19 years, retiring in 1996 as chief paramedic. In 2002 Varnes was hired as full-time assistant chief. He has also worked 15 years as a fire/medic for the Twinsburg Fire Department.

The first nine months of Varnes' tenure as chief have been filled with emotional ups and downs including the death of a friend, fighting the brutal Ohio winter and the stress that comes from the everyday duties of a firefighter.

"Without question the worst moment has been the death of Scott Graber in a tragic motorcycle versus car accident on Oct. 13, 2013," Varnes said. "Scott [was] the 18 year old son of two of my longtime friends and members of the Hudson Fire Department, Lt. Jeff Graber and Ginger Graber."

Varnes has known Jeff and Ginger most of his life and said he "cannot fathom the loss they and their family experienced with the sudden death of their son."

"The personal loss to my family and all of the members of the Hudson Fire Department pales in comparison to that of the Graber family," Varnes said. "It was my honor to speak at Scott's memorial service and as a small token of the love and respect that we feel for Scott, Jeff and Ginger… on behalf of all of the firefighters I posthumously appointed Scott as a member of the Hudson Fire Department and permanently retired his department ID number."

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And while Varnes "wanted more than anything not to have had Scott die," he said he was "very proud of the support the Hudson Fire Department, safety forces, city employees, city administration and the citizens of Hudson gave to the Graber family during this tragic time."

The man accused of hitting Scott, Philip Wiese, of Hudson, will go on trial May 12.

As fall morphed into a relentless winter, Varnes and his team have kept busy answering calls of broken sprinkler pipes at a variety of local businesses, according to Varnes.

"The most significant were in three of the nursing homes here in Hudson," the chief added. "Fortunately there have been no significant injuries involved and we were able to assist with getting the businesses back up and running."

Varnes is a life-long resident of Hudson.

"My family has lived in Hudson since 1946," Varnes said.

Varnes, and his wife, Debbie, a registered nurse at Summa/Akron City Hospital, have three children: Dan, 22, Jessi, 21 and Jake, 15.

Some long-time residents may remember Varnes from a former career path in Hudson -- as owner and operator of Hudson Appliance & TV.

Varnes operated the business for 27 years with his dad, Bill.

"My passions are my family and the Hudson Fire Department," Varnes said. "I enjoy coming to work and relish the significant responsibility that comes with this job."

Varnes described working with the dedicated people on the Hudson safety forces and city staff as a "pleasure" as well as "getting to interact with the citizens of Hudson while doing my part to help make Hudson a safe place."

"I am honored that Hudson City Council has chosen me as Hudson's Fire Chief," Varnes added.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

Facebook: TimTroglenRPC

Twitter: @Trog_RPC

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