Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A Port Medway man has donated more than $130,000 to the Port Medway Fire Department (PMFD).
Sheldon Cohoon, 83, has been donating money to his local fire department for the past several months and he keeps on giving.
In October, 2020, Cohoon, who has lived in Port Medway for his entire life, found out that he had inoperable cancer and was given just one or two months to live.
While he has hung on since then, his health has been deteriorating and he's been staying with his second cousin Willis Cohoon and Valerie Baker, who live just a few doors down from the fire department and from Cohoon's family home.
"I'm hanging in for a while yet," he told LighthouseNOW Nov. 16, two days after spending more than a week in the hospital.
He said he chose the fire department as a beneficiary because he likes "helping out a bit and the fire department serves the whole community. It helps everybody."
Cohoon has donated to other groups as well such as the South Shore Regional Hospital, Soul's Harbour and animal shelters.
His parents used to own a small general store in the community and lived just a few doors down from the fire department. He was an only child, was never married nor had any children. Willis is his only known relative in the area.
Cohoon worked on the gypsum boats and did some lobster fishing as well. He also worked at the Bowater Mersey Plant for a time.
Cohoon is well known in the community and enjoyed driving his red Mustang convertible around town.
"He was always a pretty good guy. He would also help Willis get the wood in and help other people around the neighbourhood," commented Baker.
"He has lived here all of his life. Everyone knows him. He was always out and about and always had a story to tell you. He was always helping people and very active," said James MacAleese, the captain and public relations officer of the PMFD.
While he was never part of the fire department, MacAleese noted, Cohoon always supported fundraisers. At Saturday bingo, even though he didn't play, he would stop and have a hot dog and a piece of pie, tell a few stories and leave before it started.
"It started off relatively small. Back in May we had a lobster pick-up fundraising dinner and he decided that he would donate a $1,000 to pay for the lobster which is great," said MacAleese. "At that time, our bingo was shut down because of COVID-19 and so we were just trying to make a little bit of money off the burgers, and so when he paid for the lobster that greatly improved our fundraising."
From there, he thought that the hoses the fire department was using needed an upgrade so he donated $6,000 to get new hose. The ladies' auxiliary arranged a thank you plaque for him.
"Then he kept calling the chief [Kendall Farmer] asking, 'What else do you need?'" said MacAleese.
As it turned out, the department needed some communication equipment including a new pager system that had been hit by lightning and had to be replaced. It was also short on pagers and needed a new radio for the rescue boat. That was another $30,000.
Cohoon continued to donate from there, giving money to buy things that the department had been putting off for a while, such as new bunker gear, more battery-operated tools and lights.
Cohoon also gave money to help service some of the debt the PMFD has incurred recently, purchasing a new boat, a new truck and trailer and a new addition to house the new gear.
He also gave to the ladies' auxiliary, paying for the lobster for another fundraising dinner this fall. As well, he gave them money to buy new equipment and kitchen items. MacAleese said the ladies were having to bring things from home just so they have enough bowls and other kitchen items.
"We were able to not only get what we need, but things that we've wanted but have been putting off until at least the COVID-19 situation got a little better and we were more certain about our fundraising activities," said MacAleese.
The PMFD decided to honour Cohoon for his generosity.
In early September, it held a special parade for him to where he has been staying, at the Bakers' home, just a few houses down from the department.
They drove the trucks with sirens blazing. Cohoon was able to take it all in from the front door. Each member of the department and auxiliary said thanks, then they gathered on the front lawn with a big thank you sign.
The volunteer firefighters also presented the senior with a plaque and the ladies' auxiliary planted a tree behind the fire hall to forever remember his contributions.
"I think he just wanted to contribute to the community," said MacAleese. "He didn't have any family close by really, but his family was Port Medway. I think he wanted to make sure his money went to where he wanted it to go and wanted to make sure the fire department was in good shape."