Pursuing dreams … at home | VailDaily.com

Pursuing dreams … at home

Scott N. Miller

Like many kids, Todd Hennessy’s childhood dreams involved fighting fires. Unlike most, he’s actually fulfilling that dream.

Hennessy, the new deputy chief at the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, came to firefighting through a series of side doors. As a kid in New York state, he’d often hang out at the fire station where his grandfather worked. His interest kept simmering through a move with his family to Eagle, through college, and through the first several years of a budding teaching career.

In 1997, though, Hennessy wandered into the fire station in Eagle, talked with Chief Jon Asper for a bit, and walked out as the district’s newest volunteer. His first call came soon after. Hennessy remembers it vividly.

“It was a medical call at the senior center, and the woman looked at me and said I probably needed the oxygen more than she did,” he says.

Thousands of calls

After that first call came literally thousands more. In 1999, Hennessy racked up more calls than any other volunteer in the district – all while holding down a full-time teaching job.

While running all those calls, training, and earning various firefighting certifications, Hennessy was also building a reputation as an educator, especially regarding his research into the Holocaust. Over the past few years, he’s earned a couple of grants and a fellowship that allow him to continue his research and interviews with the dwindling numbers of Holocaust survivors.

While running two directions at once is possible in the short run, it’s not a great long-term strategy, however. So how did Hennessy finally choose between teaching and firefighting?

“It was just the right time,” he says.

After a decade of teaching eighth graders, Hennessy was ready for a change.

“I wanted to get into something safer,” he says.

A clean break

At this point, Hennessy’s made a clean break. He took 15 boxes of material to his last teaching job in Castle Rock. He came back to Eagle with just three.

Hennessy plans to continue his work in Holocaust studies. Holding just one job should leave some time to pursue that interest, he says.

Asper says he’s thrilled to have Hennessy back as a full-time staffer. The new deputy chief, meanwhile, is just the kind of full-timer he wants on the payroll.

“Todd’s just like everybody here – he came up through the ranks as a volunteer,” says Asper.

In fact, Hennessy remained a member of the department while teaching in Castle Rock. He would return to Eagle for a few days from time to time, participate in training and answer calls.

“He’s really a local product come home to do good,” says Asper. “This is his home, where his roots are.”

Going to the store

That fact was driven home soon after Hennessy moved back.

“I went to City Market right after I came back and it took me two hours to get out the store – I was running into people I knew in every aisle,” he says. Being able to get in and out of the store was one of the attractions of Castle Rock. On the other hand, knowing half the people in the grocery store on any given trip has its charms, too.

“It’s a good thing,” says Hennessy. “We’ve got great equipment, a great crew, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to work for Asper. It’s a good thing.”

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.

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