Leadership in Freehold Borough, N.J., clearly cares for volunteer firefighter Donald Rue. Not only did they feel it necessary to honor him for his 50 years of service to his community, they also decided a small family reunion was in order.
“He’s not the kind of guy who’s materialistic so there’s really nothing you could do for him,” said Mitch Shatz, vice president of the fire company. “The only thing he does cherish in the world is his daughter.”
When Rue stepped up to be recognized for his service, little did he know his friends had invited a special guest.
Rue and his stepdaughter, Tiffany Bastedo, hadn’t seen each other in seven years. The Asbury Park Press reports Rue offered to fly her in from Tucson, Ariz., so she could attend the ceremony Monday. She told him she had work. Then she broke her foot.
What Rue didn’t know, fellow volunteers had already purchased Tiffany’s plane ticket.
In a video captured by the Asbury Park Press, dozens of firefighters from Freehold Borough and Perth Amboy, along with some family members are seen honoring Rue. Councilman Jaye Sims, also a firefighter, asks Rue to step forward. “And any family members of Donny, if you’re here, please come forward.”
Rue and Sims shake hands then Rue turns around to see Bastedo in crutches, making her way to the front of the room.
“You’re very sneaky,” Rue later tells Bastedo. He turned to the dozens of attendees and explains, “She lives in Tucson, Arizona and somehow she got here without my knowing.”
The Asbury Park Press describes Rue as a humble man who doesn’t like attention, but says his fellow firefighters consider him the “go to guy.”
“Donny’s like that one relative everybody’s got in their family who knows how to do everything,” Sims said.
Councilman Sims was 15 when he met Rue. Sims, clearly too young to join the department, spent time there with his older brother, who was a volunteer. The Asbury Park Press reports Sims saw Rue installing shelves inside a new fire truck one day and offered to help. Rue said sure and started explaining how to do the job.
“That’s just his nature, never turn anyone down,” Sims tells the Asbury Park Press.
Bastedo, who grew up seeing Rue in the firehouses, says no matter where he worked, he struck a balance between having fun and commanding respect.
“He was one of the guys, but he was a good leader as well,” she said. “He was so well-loved, well respected.”
His commitment, she adds for the Asbury Park Press, inspired her to help others in her career as a nurse. Now she works with homeless veterans in Arizona. “I really attribute that to watching him take a very active role here in the volunteer department,” she said.
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