VIDEO: RH Fire station named
Hometown heroes come in all shapes, forms and ages.
The City of Richmond Hill, which is celebrating its 60th birthday, recognized one of its hometown heroes last Friday when it renamed the RHFD Station 1 firehouse as the Capt. Theron Darieng, Sr., Building.
Darieng, a 1951 Richmond Hill High School graduate, was one of the driving forces behind Richmond Hill’s incorporation as a city in 1962 and served the city in several different capacities.
The Darieng family has played a major role in the community’s growth and development and Theron now joins his father Thomas Darieng, Sr., and brother, Thomas, Jr., who have been recognized by the city.
Highway 144 is known as the Thomas Darieng, Sr., Highway and when Thomas, Jr., passed away in 1985 he was the last surviving member of the original Richmond Hill City Council. Theron, like his brother, served on city council from 1973 to 1990 and both were involved in the city’s drive to incorporate.
Theron Darieng also was the city’s public works director and he served as a volunteer fire fighter, rising to rank of captain before retiring making it only appropriate for the city to put his name on the fire station.
Darieng, his wife Janine, sons Ben and Robert and daughter Pam were present for the dedication as was Robert’s wife Jenifer. Bob and Pam reside in Richmond Hill while Robert lives in Camden County, N.C., near the Outer Banks.
As one of a dwindling number who played early leadership roles in the city Darieng said it has been amazing to see the city’s tremendous growth and development which. The last census showed Richmond Hill to be one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.
“I was born in Clyde, Ga., and we moved to Richmond Hill when I was around five,” Darieng said. “My father worked as a game warden for Mr. (Henry) Ford. We lived at Belfast-Keller and it was a two-lane dirt road all the way from Highway 17 which was also a two-lane road.
“I grew up with (long time mayor) Richard Davis and we graduated from high school together. His father was also a game warden for Mr. Ford.”
Darieng said he deeply appreciated the city chose to honor him by placing his name on the building.
“I think it’s very nice of the city to do this,” Darieng said. “I’ve always appreciated them hiring me. I’ve put in many hours on behalf of the city and I’ve been dedicated and loyal.”
Mayor Russ Carpenter, who has known Darieng all his life, said it was only right and fitting for him to be recognized for his contributions to the city.
“Naming the building after him is a way to honor those who got us here,” Carpenter said. “People like Theron worked hard to help make the city what it is today.
“He has been a life long servant for the people of Richmond Hill. It is only appropriate we do this.”
“I think the population was around 400 or 500 when I graduated high school,” Darieng said. “There were nine graduates in my class. It’s amazing. It’s hard to believe.”
This year the school will graduate more than 600. Carpenter said his 1985 graduating class had 55 members.
That growth is also reflected in today’s fire department, for example, as compared to the all-volunteer unit in which Darieng served.
“We had one deputy sheriff and that was our police force,” Darieng recalled. “The volunteer fire department was established in 1957. We eventually had 15-20 members when the city hired its first firefighters.”
That came about in 1998 when Michelle Meacham and Nick Clark were hired and worked in conjunction with the volunteers. Today the city has 27 full-time firefighters headed by Chief Brendon Greene who has been with the city for eight years.
Meacham, who became a member of the VFD following high school, is today the senior member of the department and is a Division and Operations Chief. Clark left Richmond Hill several years ago.
“I always wanted to be a firefighter,” Meacham said. “After college the opportunity to be a full-time firefighter became available and I took it. I’ve seen a lot of changes. We have a lot more traffic and more interchanges on the interstate but people still want to stop in and talk to us.”
The new Capt. Theron Darieng, Sr., Building has an interesting history with which Meacham is very familiar.
“This building was the fire department but it was also the old city hall,” Meacham said. “The current day room was the police department and the break room was the holding cell. All the city offices were in this building.
“When we had a call, we had to decide what equipment to take. Today we have our operational center on Timber Trail and when we get a call we just go. We don’t have to worry about equipment because it’s all on the truck.”
Photos courtesy City of Richmond Hill.