Table fit for a king (or knight)
Inside Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue King City Station 35 is the pride and joy of the crew members who work there: A beautiful wood dining table that at its center features the station's new logo.
The table was created in central Oregon by Redmond High School shop students under the leadership of their teacher, Mark Winger, whose son-in-law Shane Kooch is the best friend of Station 35 Capt. Barry Quinn.
"Mark, who has been the shop teacher there for 12 years, called me and said they wanted to do something for a 'give-back' project after Shane told him I had been promoted to captain," Quinn said. "It was important to me that we set a proud tradition here, and I tasked the guys for ideas, and we came up with the idea of a kitchen table. A wife of one of the guys is a graphic artist, and we gave her our ideas for a logo. A few of the stations have their own logo, and we have the best logo of all the stations that includes 'Sleepless Knights,' which ties into the King City royalty theme.
"The logo itself is made from reclaimed wood from an old farmhouse on Farmington Road that our Station 35 crew rescued before the house was demolished for a road expansion project. We hung onto it for three or four months while the design was being worked on. I led a lot of this project because it was important to me.
"I took the wood over to the school in Redmond and talked to the kids about fire-service careers. I talked about the traits of a firefighter and told them, 'You kids have those traits too. Taking on a project like this is character-building. That makes you special. That's what we look for in a firefighter – someone who people can depend on.'
"I choked up a little talking to the kids. This is my 24th year as a firefighter, and to give back to kids like these is my legacy."
According to Quinn, Redmond High School has a huge wood shop with a program that is supported by the community, and the shop students eagerly took on the project with no deadline pressure.
The 4-foot-by-10-foot table is made of purple heart from Central America, birch and oak, and it took one-and-a-half-years to construct. It weighs 400 pounds "and took all eight of us to move it," Quinn said.
During the construction period, "every once in a while, Mark would send a photo," said Quinn, adding that ironically, there was a fire in the wood shop that started in the dust-collection system while the table was under construction.
The table includes protective corners, and the crew added a glass top. Also, under one end is an engraved plate with Capt. Barry Quinn's name on it. "And all the students who worked on it signed the back of the logo," Quinn said.
On May 8 all the Station 35 crew members who were available convoyed over to Redmond with a trailer and met up with Winger and Kooch, with Quinn noting that Winger was named Teacher of the Year this spring.
"All the division chiefs were there for a conference and came over, and there was a catered lunch with the school superintendent, two school board members and both wood shop classes," Quinn said. "We got to sit and talk with the students and went back into the shop. They had taken lots of photos of the table being built and made a DVD with music showing the process. And the students wrote papers about what building the table meant to them. We were blown away."
The table has a self-leveling frame that the school's metal-shop lab fabricated, and a local business donated the powder coating.
"Our first thought on seeing it was shock and awe," Quinn said. "We got the truck ready for the table, but the kids wanted to carry it out. Mark said, 'We have never done such a beautiful project. The kids worked extra hard on it because of where it was going.' I feel such a connection with those kids. And I have seen Mark's work and knew it would be top-notch."
Back at Station 35, Quinn said, "A lot of guys who used to work here have come back to see the table and are amazed. The table makes it seem more like home."
Quinn explained that for the Station 35 firefighters and paramedics, the table is a lot more than just a place to sit and eat.
"So many significant moments happen around fire station tables," he said. "We meet around it at the start of a shift and talk about our days off. There is grieving around the table when we come back from telling a parent that they lost a child. There is bonding. New friendships are made, and holiday meals are shared.
"I found out I was going to be a dad for the first time sitting around a firehouse table. We're a family. And when my family comes to visit dad, or other families come to visit, we sit around the table."
Quinn stressed how deeply the notion of family runs among firefighters, saying that the widow of a Station 35 firefighter was coming to dinner that night, part of their effort to stay in touch with her.
"I know if I died today, my family would be taken care of," he said. "That is the legacy of our station. The day I retire, I will leave happy with all I did. We take pride in our job."
And the Station 35 crews are planning on sharing their table and hospitality with others. They have invited the King City city manager and City Council members to come for lunch in July, and they are planning a barbecue for their families.
"We want the community to feel like they can come and see it too," Quinn said. "We are your fire department and love sharing with the community and getting involved with them. Maybe we'll have an open house at the end of the summer or in the fall."
One Redmond High School student's letter particularly touched Quinn, and it reads in part, "Firefighters are the epitome of a hero. They are the men and women in red, risking it all to save lives. They are courageous, yet kind and caring. I appreciate what firefighters do for our community. It gives me the feeling of safety throughout my everyday life, just in case anything happened to go wrong.
"It means a lot to see what they have done in the past, and what they continue to do today, with utmost professionalism and honor. Thank you for selflessly sacrificing yourself to save lives. I appreciate you for giving up your bodies, your eating schedule, your time and even your nights of rest.
"You are heroes. You are rescuers. You are friends. Thank you, Sleepless Knights."