For over half a century, Paul Deysenroth has been committed to keeping Westonites safe.
“Volunteerism was instilled in me from a young age,” said Deysenroth, who at 80 is the oldest and longest serving member of both the Weston Volunteer Fire Department and Weston Emergency Medical Service (EMS). “I have always loved doing work for the community.”
In December, Deysenroth was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual fire and EMS holiday dinner. The national award is signed by the president of the United States, and Deysenroth is the first Westonite to ever receive the accolade.
“At the dinner, they finished the awards for the evening and said there was one more award to be given out,” said Deysenroth. “When Jon [Weingarten, president of Weston EMS] said it was for a member who has been involved in fire and EMS for over 50 years, I knew it was for me.”
Deysenroth, who recently celebrated his 52nd year in fire and EMS, said being called up to receive the award brought him to tears.
“It was such a beautiful surprise,” said Deysenroth. “I’ve been involved in fire and EMS since I was a teenager. It was a great feeling to have this award given to me.”
Then and now
Deysenroth, who moved to Weston in 1964, said one of the first things he did in town was join the fire department.
“My father was chief of Rowayton Hose Company during World War II,” said Deysenroth. “It was inbred in me to do service for the community that I live in.”
Deysenroth was a firefighter in Rowayton for years before moving to Weston.
Including his time in Rowayton, Deysenroth has been serving Fairfield County communities in fire or EMS for more than 60 years.
He said a lot has changed in that time. “When I first joined Weston, we got maybe 50 calls a year, there were only 3,000 people in town and about 12 members of the department,” he said. “We have close to 550 calls annually now. We’re constantly training now, too, which is something we didn’t do back then.”
Deysenroth was one of the first people in Weston to take a proper emergency medical technician (EMT) training class. Now EMTs have to take refresher classes every few years.
“We have a whole litany of new equipment every year. The difference between what we had 50 years ago and what we have now is absolutely astounding,” he said. “I’m proud that we have the ability to constantly purchase new equipment that can help save lives.”
Deysenroth cited Narcan, the medicine used to reverse the effects of an overdose, as something important that the EMTs now carry which they never had to in the past.
But while the equipment and training have changed drastically, Deysenroth said, the feeling of fellowship remains the same. “The camaraderie has been a constant since my first day,” he said. “We still do what we can for each other, no matter what.”
Deysenroth has two children, Paul and Peter, who live in New York state. He has four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His wife, Elaine, is a longtime Westonite whose family once had a farm on Newtown Turnpike.
He worked for General Electric for 25 years as a facilities manager before retiring in 2000.
As soon as Deysenroth retired, he got more involved in fire and EMS, and also found himself doing more around town.
“When I join a new organization, I want to be helpful,” he said. “I want to be as involved as I can be. When I retired I had more time on my hands to do more things.”
In addition to Weston Fire and EMS, Deysenroth is heavily involved in the Weston Historical Society. He also volunteers at the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston and is on the committee for antique home restoration in town.
Over the years, Deysenroth has been on countless fire and EMS calls; he said that last year he went on around 100 calls. Nowadays, he does a lot of work as “fire police” when he shows up to a scene.
Fire police are responsible for directing traffic around a fire or rescue scene. They keep roads open and closed and assist police when necessary at call scenes.
Deysenroth is also an EMS crew chief, and is responsible for each call while ensuring that protocols are followed on the scene.
Among his most challenging days in the past five decades were two separate EMS calls in which two teenagers died in car accidents in town.
“Those situations stick in your head,” he said. “It’s definitely the hardest part of the job.”
While there have been tough times, Deysenroth said, his experiences have been overwhelmingly rewarding.
“I’ve been on three different calls where babies were delivered in the ambulance,” he said. “A lot of the calls are for elderly people, and it has always made me proud to help them when they’re in times of need.”
Ultimately, Deysenroth is proudest of the fact that fire and EMS have been able to retain themselves completely as volunteer organizations.
“It’s great that there are always new people willing to volunteer to help the town they live in,” he said. “I’m proud that no one gets paid to do this — we just do it because we care about Weston.”