FARMINGTON — Farmington firefighters Stephan Bunker and Patty Cormier will be ringing in the New Year in a special way as they head for the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.

Their all-expenses paid trip to the Jan. 1 parade was an unexpected surprise given through the generosity of the Maine Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a national organization that promotes personal and social development and the principles of friendship, truth and love. The Rebekahs are a branch of the organization.

Longtime Rebekah member Michele Trynor of South Portland came up with the idea following the Sept. 16 explosion at the LEAP building in Farmington that killed Capt. Michael Bell and seriously wounded several firefighters. She was determined to let the firemen know that they were not alone in their pain, that she and many others in the Old Fellows and Rebekahs were thinking of them.

In 2019 IOOF and Rebekahs celebrated the organization’s 200th anniversary as a benevolent and charitable organization. Trynor and her husband traveled to the Rose Parade where their organization sponsored one of the many floats. She learned that this year their national organization was again sponsoring a float, this time with a theme of recognizing first responders in America.

The float design will be a huge fire truck. Organization leaders will be riding, along with a select number of sponsored firefighters.

Trynor was able to gather enough funds to help support the float, secure a coveted position on the float for a rider from Maine, and cover all travel expenses for two firefighters and herself to attend. After making contact with the fire department, Acting Fire Chief Tim Hardy chose Bunker and Cormier to represent the department.

Bunker said, “Out of our tragedy, there have been so many blessings. So much caring and goodwill has poured in. The generosity of the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs organization is a real morale booster to our department.”

Cormier added, “It’s a real honor to represent such a great group of firefighters, wish they could all be there with us.”

Bunker, Cormier and Trynor will leave Dec. 31 in order to help put the final touches on the float and observe the judging before the parade. Cormier will ride on the float, and has been practicing her official “hand wave.” Bunker and Trynor will be in a special reserved grandstand, along with dignitaries from the many state chapters.

The parade is set to kick off at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, 11 a.m. here. The float is said to be the 64th unit in line, one of countless floats, marching bands and equestrian groups.

Bunker will try to text message friends back home with updates and lots of photos.

Cormier is the director of the Maine Forest Service. She and her husband, John Cormier, run Kennebec Home Brew Supplies in Farmington.

Bunker, retired from the Maine 911 Bureau, is a longtime selectman and 1st Vice Cmdr. of the Roderick-Crosby American Legion Post 28 in Farmington.

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