What’s In a Name…a Legacy!
Rededication to take place at Taft Staff Station June 10th, 2016
by Captain Jim Kusz
The Taft Station is getting renamed, and it is to remember a remarkable man who assisted in making our District what it is today. He was a former Fire Chief and Board member for the Taft-Nelscott-DeLake Fire District, Elmo Francis St. Clair.
While researching why we name buildings after people, I found this statement: “Only use the names of admirable people, recognize substantial individual contributions, and name a building that has a connection to the individual”. Elmo St. Clair fit perfectly all of that and a lot more.
He was a gentle elder statesman of the District when I met him for the first time in 1995 as he worked at accumulating and coping articles about the history of the Districts to put into the “big” red binders you can find at Station 1400 and Station 1600. He captured for all of us our story from beginning, so it felt only right I share some of his story.
Elmo Francis “Saint” St. Clair, was serving in the United States Navy in Seattle, when he met and married his wife (of 62 years) Melba on June 1, 1946. They settled in Taft, Oregon, and started what became a very successful carpet, linoleum and tile business called Custom Craft. Saint was very talented at what he did and Melba kept the store and did the book work. They were a very good team. They bought a very small home and over the years built it into a very lovely larger home, doing the designing and work themselves.
They would remain there for over 60 years where they raised their two children, Dee Ann and Dennis. They were very active in the community and Saint served as volunteer (1948 to 1966) was Fire Chief from 1960 -1966 and on the board from 1983 to 1995. Saint passed away in September of 2008 and Melba went to Maple Valley, Washington to live with her daughter Dee Ann Chamberlin. Melba passed away peacefully in November of 2012. Dee passed away a few years later. Dennis St. Clair is living in the Eugene area and will be in Lincoln City for the dedication on June 10th, 2016.
Here is part of a speech Chief Don Baker made at Elmo St. Clair’s remembrance in 2008:
Chief St Clair put his heart, humor, hard work, into everything he did, was a man with great vision. Few know of his work with the Taft Water District to assure adequate water supply for fire suppression the community.
He foresaw the need for a Tsunami Warning System and reestablished the Taft Station Siren as a Tsunami Warning Siren. I remember Saint showing me around the station, when I first became Chief at TND. He took me back to the station electrical panel and showed me the controls for the Siren and said, see this button here, hold it in and the siren will sound, if we have a Tsunami Warning it is your job to push the button. I said Ok, but this station will be hit by the wave won’t it? He just laughed and said; yeah it would be a good idea to leave before the water gets too deep.
Then he told me the siren will go off at noon everyday but the controls are old and need to be adjusted frequently to keep accurate time. I asked, did he use a particular source to set the time by and he chuckled… He said, when I was Chief I set the siren to the radio station time, figuring they used a precise method of determining the time. He said, one day when I called to ask the time I asked hey by the way, what is your source for determining the time… the radio guy said I use the fire department noon siren.
When the 1941 Ford TND fire truck was restored by our volunteers, it was the first professional built fire truck TND owned. Saint came by the station for a visit one day and I took him back to show him the rig. His reaction surprised me a little, he was very emotional, he hugged the hood of the Engine and said this was “my baby”, and she looking beautiful. You tell the volunteers they did good…
A few years after he retired from the Fire Board, he spent two years working full time locating and copying and cataloging every news article every published about the Devils Lake & TND Fire Districts. He was a man that knew an organization needed to remember where they came from, to see where they were going. He told me the first day I went to work for TND, this is a good department, but one day it will be part of a department that will cover all of North Lincoln County. (A man of vision that knew how to share his vision.)
In 2000 North Lincoln Fire& Rescue Awarded Chief Elmo St. Clair the Fire Chiefs Award, for his work putting together the history of our fire district, and his many accomplishments. When interviewed prior to the awarding, Saint was asked about himself he told of the many things in his life, that he loved to do… he spoke of many of things he loved in his life, of flying float plane around and landing on Devils Lake, making flies and fly fishing in his drift boat, restoring old cars with his son, spending time with his daughter and the closeness of his family, he said he loved to dance and look at pretty women and ended by saying how blessed he was to have spent all these years with his beautiful wife Melba. – Chief Don Baker
Few people have an honor to be remembered this way, to have building named after them and you are welcome to join us in the re-dedication on June 10th, 2016. Soon you’ll see a knew sign in front of Station 1600 and hopefully you’ll slow down from time to time to remember the man who did so much to make our District, and person some called “Saint”.