Lions Club honors police, firefighters

By Carolyn Livengood

"With honor and pride," the Peninsula Council of Lions Clubs held its 42nd Annual Police and Firefighters Awards Banquet on March 30 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City.

Lion Al Hernandez, council president, welcomed the largest number of attendees to date: Nearly 500. Vic Lee, ABC7 News reporter, was emcee and Joanne Hayes-White, City of San Francisco fire chief, was keynote speaker.

Lions William Reilly, retired Central County fire chief, and Mark Raffaelli, South San Francisco police chief, presented the fire and police awards, respectively.

Captain Shawn Wilkerson, Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department was honored with the Area Wide Fire Valor Award.

Firefighter/Engineer Justin Velasquez, Redwood City Fire Department, earned the Area Wide Fire Service Award.

Captain Frank Panacci, Firefighter David Riessen, and Engineer Operator Patrick Svoboda, North County Fire Authority, were presented the "Area Wide Fire Heroism Award."

Fire Heroism awards also went to Engineer/paramedic John Giraudo, Firefighter/paramedic Mick Hughes and Captain John Wurdinger, Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

Fire Service awardees and their departments were: Fire Marshal James Palisi, Belmont-San Carlos; Fire Apparatus Engineer Sam Lanier, California Department of Forestry & Fire-San Mateo County; Firefighter/paramedic Michael Hillhouse, Central County; Captain/paramedic James Kucharszky, Colma; Assistant Fire Marshal Lee Bach, Foster City; Fire engineer Ken Steele, Menlo Park; Division Chief Ronald Lavezzo, Millbrae; Firefighter Eric Schill, Palo Alto; Captain Dennis Mitchell, San Bruno; Firefighter/paramedic Craig Hogan, San Mateo; and Safety Inspector Tom Carney, Fire Apparatus Engineer Eric Haslam, Paramedic/Firefighter Alex Mengell; and Fire Apparatus Engineer Dave Ramsey, South San Francisco.

Officer Richard A. May, East Palo Alto Police Department, was given the Police Valor-In Memoriam Award posthumously.

Officer Michael R. McDonough, California Highway Patrol-Redwood City, and Officer Michael Kalagayan and Officer Dexter Lawley, both South San Francisco Police Department, were awarded the Area Wide Police Valor Award.

Officer Victor Bertolozzi, San Carlos Police Department, received the Area Wide Police Heroism Award.

Police Valor awardees and their departments were: Officer Aaron Dixon and Officer Bradley Schuler, both Menlo Park; Agent Alex Afanasiev and Officer Tony Becker, both Palo Alto; Officer Torsten Sommer, San Bruno; and Sergeant Peter Ralls, San Mateo County Sheriff's Department.

Police Heroism awardees and their departments were: Officer Sherwin Lum and Officer Sonny Mercado, Colma; Officer Mike McLaughlin and Officer David Orlando, Foster City.

Officer Brett Clyne, Colma Police Department, earned the Area Wide Police Service Award.

Police Service awardees and their departments were: Officer Francisco Miguel Chicas, Belmont; Corporal Steven E. Rettinger, Broadmoor; Officer Ronda Caine Alcantara, Burlingame; Officer Edward Nyhan, Daly City; Inspector Robert E. Chinca, Hillsborough; Detective Corporal Rio DelMoral, Pacifica; Officer Scott Savage, Palo Alto; Officer Brad Johnson, Redwood City; Officer Jason Pasero, San Bruno; and Officer Keala Keanaaina, San Mateo.

"This event, the Lions Annual Police and Fire Awards Banquet, is the only public venue to celebrate police and fire officers, sheriff's deputies and emergency service workers from all over the Peninsula, together, as one, for their service, dedication and heroism," said Fire Chief Hayes-White, as she thanked the Lions, noted their recent 90th anniversary and talked about their motto "we serve," as similar to that of all emergency workers. "Not all sacrifices need to be made in a uniform. You, all of the Lions here and across the nation, make daily sacrifices that rival, in their own way, those of emergency services.

"I believe the finest example of sacrifice, of commitment, of devotion to a cause can be summed up in simple, but very powerful words: Never above you, never below you, but with you."

Copyright ©2007 San Mateo County Times. Published 04/28/2007.