KATONAH, N.Y. — Bernard Roberts has had several careers, but one thing in his life has remained constant. He has been a volunteer with the Katonah Fire Department for 51 years and served with the Katonah-Bedford Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps for 41 of those years.
“Basically it was something that you did. My father was in the fire department and my uncles," he said. "It was kind of expected to give back to your community.”
A Mount Kisco native who grew up in Katonah, Roberts returned to Katonah after college and has never left. His two daughters and their families also call Katonah home.
Roberts always goes the extra mile, even as a volunteer. When he began with the ambulance corps, Roberts planned to be a driver. “As I got into it, I discovered I better know what I was doing, so I got trained as an EMT. I found it really exciting.”
Now he finds the fire department too physically taxing but continues working with the ambulance corps. With his decades of experience, Roberts has seen many changes in the fire and ambulance corps. Residents are better protected now, he said, especially with all the new technology. “We had to make an assessment and bring them to the hospital,” he says, pointing out that paramedics can now bring drugs to patients before transport.
“Everybody who is involved in the volunteer department in these areas are really a great bunch of people,” Roberts says proudly. “They get up in the middle of the night, and they help their neighbors. Sometimes there is a great loss of sleep.”
A business owner, special education teacher and now parking enforcement officer in the town of Bedford, Roberts believes one of the most important parts of working in emergency services is keeping people calm. “That is 90 percent of our work,” he says. “We’re here. We’re not going to let anything happen to you.” He has been telling people that for more than half a century.