OCEAN CITY — In one fell swoop on Tuesday afternoon, the Ocean City Fire Department lost nearly 80 years of combined experience with the retirement of two legends.
At the outset of Tuesday’s work session, Ocean City firefighters and paramedics David Cropper and David Pruitt were feted with a retirement ceremony for the two legends. Combined, Cropper and Pruitt served the Ocean City Fire Department and the town of Ocean City for nearly 80 years, with Cropper hanging it up after 40 years and Pruitt calling it quits after 37.
The affable Cropper started with the department in June 1979 and has served the town in the 40 years since. Mayor Rick Meehan said Cropper’s retirement was bittersweet for a lot of reasons.
“I never thought I’d be here to see this one,” he said. “We all know David’s contribution to the town of Ocean City and its fire department. To say he has given his life to the town of Ocean City is probably an understatement. He is a true legend.”
Meehan said he learned from his predecessor Cropper was the man to go to during an emergency.
“If you’re ever in a pinch, call David Cropper, that’s what Fish Powell told me,” he said. “He is leaving as a town of Ocean City employee, but he will still continue to serve with our volunteer fire company.”
Fire Chief Richie Bowers was just appointed last spring, but he said he already knew of Cropper’s legacy and it has only been enhanced during his time as chief.
“David is a legend in this town and in this department,” he said. “His legacy is that he is passing the torch to the young men and women of this department.”
For his part, Cropper, who has never been shy with a story or a joke, took his opportunity to inject a little humor in the otherwise solemn ceremony
“I already have a key to the city that Harry Kelley gave me, but I haven’t done anything with it yet,” he said. “I don’t feel bad about leaving because I know we’re in good hands, and I am confident in the men and women of this department.”
As for Pruitt, Meehan said his accomplishments were equally impressive after joining the department 37 years ago.
“It’s hard to lose almost 80 years of combined service to the community in one afternoon,” he said. “To put in 37 years of service to this community is a tremendous accomplishment.”
Bowers agreed the department was losing vast amounts of knowledge and experience and thanked Pruitt for his decades of service.
“It’s not easy to lose the almost 40 years of service David Pruitt leaves behind,” he said. “The wealth of knowledge and experience David has is incredible. We often talk about the legacy you’re leaving behind for the men and women of this department and we will continue to have those talks.”