Oldest Fire Chief, Oldest Woman Police Officer Retire In Wallace

By: April Davis/ Carly Swain
By: April Davis/ Carly Swain

A town in the east is saying farewell to a firefighter and a police officer who together have served a community nearly a century.

Chief Thomas Townsend is the oldest volunteer fire chief to retire from the Wallace Fire Department in Duplin County after 59.5 years. At 85-years-old, he says being a fireman was always in his blood and it's the people he's worked with over the years that kept him there for so long. Down the hall at the Wallace Police Department, 80-year-old Willa Currie is finishing up her last full week of work. She's the oldest female police officer in the state. She's not out on the street, but she's still a sworn officer who's been going through the same service training and qualifications as the guys on the streets since 1975. The chief says they'll find someone for her job but no one will ever really replace her.

"She's definitely once in a lifetime. If you're lucky enough to have one of them you're luckier then most people. I don't think nobody's lucky enough to find two of them in a lifetime," said Wallace Police Department Chief Bobby Maready.


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  • by Clifton Location: Washington on Jan 28, 2012 at 08:19 AM
    People like this are disapearing everyday. These fine people are what America used to be of. Corporate america is making sure that folks like this are changed into corporate world...for a profit. Congrats to both of these people. Even though I don't live in Duplin County, I can spot real people from here. I'm sure these two have made Wallace a better place to live.
  • by Evelyn Location: Greensboro, NC on Jan 27, 2012 at 07:54 PM
    Willa, I/m Evelyn Turlington and I think I recognize you in the W-Salem News. Congratulations, cuz. I'd like us to be in touch...Long time no see, and had no idea where you were. You've done a good job and loved it, obviously!Enjoy retirement to the fullest! Let's do get "in touch."The Maynards' near Wallace are relatives of John Kelly, my husband.....We were from Salemburg / Clinton area, and Charles was his cousin.Remember? I'm happy for you, and now do other things you enjoy! Love to you,ENT.
  • by Anna Location: Gastonia, NC on Jan 27, 2012 at 05:17 PM
    Good job, Willa! 'Can't wait to have you visit more often...
  • by Susan Location: Wallace Police Dept. on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:34 PM
    I have had the pleasure and horor of working with Ms. Willa and Mr. Thomas all these years. I was there when Ms. Willa was hired and Mr. Thomas was on town council back then. Both are wonderful people and have served the town and community well. Ms. Willa has been like a Mom to me and often had to keep me straight. Thanks to you both for all you have done. I will miss Ms. Willa at work and Mr. Thomas calling me on the radio to dispatch for the Fire Department. May God bless you both with many more great years.
    • reply
      by Susan on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:39 PM in reply to Susan
      Correction on spelling the word should be, I have had the pleasure and honor.
  • by DEE Location: BEAUFORT COUNTY on Jan 27, 2012 at 07:53 AM
    DEAR MISS WILLA AND MR TOMMY, CONGRATULATIONS AND GREAT JOB! DEAR "OK"--SERIOUSLY???
  • by Medic Location: DC on Jan 27, 2012 at 07:14 AM
    Awesome story. Wish my generation would be near as dedicated. Never met Ms. Willa, but I've seen "Tommy" a lot over the years at fire calls. Both are certainly role models for a younger generation like mine to emulate. Enjoy the retirement, no doubt you've earned it!
  • by Al on Jan 27, 2012 at 07:12 AM
    About OK's post: Please do not glorify that person or their comment. That person posted their true ignorance. It deserves the energy of no one to enen comment. Prime example of the turmoil of the world today and some of today's young people. To these two icons 'Good job to thy good and faithful servants" They just don't make tehm like that anymore. What a great place the world use to be when respect and decency prevailed. The good was as contagious as the bad is now. "old views" were the best. Who wants to rememver much of today's world. The crimes of today were extremely rare and unheard of in the distant past. Now who can remember a day that the news is not primarily about numerous robberies, murders, rapes, drug bust etc.
  • by Jackie Location: Wallace on Jan 27, 2012 at 05:42 AM
    That was a great story and well deserved recognition for both. If the rest of us were half as dedicated it would really be a better world. As for you ok if you can't say anything nice don't say anthing at all.
  • by anon Location: none ya on Jan 27, 2012 at 04:16 AM
    To OK; If I was your grandmother, and thank god I am not; I would not even take the time to lower your britches, to paddle your disrespectful little punk self. The Bible tells us to be kind and respectful to elders and children. where are your morals? Did you have anyone to teach you any at all, or were you one of these uneducated brats born and raised out of wedlock with no structure at all.I tell you what young buck; I am a 50 year old man, and I know where there is a Do-Jo that I can take you and give you a proper instructional on respect and morals when it comes to old people. I promise that your views will change, and we shall not even speak a word. you may call it a silent education. As for the two retiring; congrats, and may the wind spread your character and example of fine people world wide. awsum awsum awsum! enjoy your time off.
  • by Jerry Location: Duplin County on Jan 27, 2012 at 03:33 AM
    Mrs. Willa is a wonderful, sweet, loving woman who has helped many people over the years. She is the type of person who would even help a foolish idiot who don't even know her, yet wants to call her names because people like her love everyone...even the stupid ones. I congratulate and thank her for her selfless years of service...she will be greatly missed because in this modern "young" world real people are hard to find.
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