In fitting celebration of a fire chief’s decades of service to his community, Carnegie Hero Paul H. Stoudt, Jr., 88, was recently surprised with a parade of at least 20 fire trucks. Stoudt sat in a lawn chair on the curb outside his Souderton, Pa., home, with family and friends. Trucks from multiple departments flashed their lights and sounded their sirens as they drove through his usually quiet, residential neighborhood.
“I can’t believe it. I never thought this would happen. To have all my family and firemen here,” Stoudt told local television station WFMZ.
Many of the firefighters leaned out from their trucks shouting well wishes and praise at Stoudt.
Organized by the Perseverance Fire Department, where Stoudt served as chief from 1968-1988, department President Jim Gallagher said it was easy to find departments that would participate.
“Everybody was for it because everybody knows Paul. He’s just the kind of guy that gets along with everyone,” Gallagher said.
Stoudt’s family was also grateful.
“It’s quite an honor to have the community serve my father because he served the community for over 63 years,” said Mickey Stoudt, Paul’s son.
Stoudt was recently diagnosed with untreatable cancer, Gallagher told local reporters.
Although Stoudt spent 63 years as a volunteer firefighter, Stoudt’s first fire rescue came as a civilian. On Dec. 9, 1965, he suffered burns to his hands and arms while saving a truck driver, earning him the Carnegie Medal.
Stoudt, then a 33-year-old cook, ran to the scene of an accident where a tractor-trailer had left the highway and plunged into a shallow ravine in Sellersville, Pa. The truck’s driver, 44-year-old
Earl C. Hilbert was thrown onto the hood, but, with his feet still caught on the wreckage inside the cab, he could not crawl away from flames that erupted there.
With no personal protective equipment and outside of his volunteer fire department’s jurisdiction, Stoudt went to the hood and grasped Hilbert under the arms. He pulled, but soon called out to onlookers for help, struggling to remove Hilbert, whose legs and feet were by now burning.
One man ran to his aid, but backed off because of the intense heat. Bracing his feet against the bumper, Stoudt jerked forcibly and freed Hilbert. He then aided him up the bank. About two minutes later the flames spread over a wide area and increased to as much as 20 feet high. Hilbert was hospitalized for his injuries and severe burns on his legs but recovered. Stoudt suffered burns on his hands and arm, which healed.
Stoudt received the Carnegie Medal for the rescue nearly one year later.
While researching Stoudt’s act for this article, Hero Fund staff found a letter dated Jan. 30, 1967, in which Stoudt wondered “if it would be possible to have a medal made up in miniature to wear as a lapel pin.”
At that time the Commission did not offer lapel pins, but that changed in 2004.
So, as a surprise, the Hero Fund recently coordinated with Gallagher to send a lapel pin to Perseverance Fire Department for presentation to Stoudt by Gallagher and Fire Chief Albert Sergio.
“Anything for Paul,” Gallagher said.
— Jewels Phraner, outreach coordinator/editor