Matt Dey Named Firefighter of the Year at South Haven

A dedicated firefighter who displays selfless commitment to his community has been chosen by his peers as South Haven Area Emergency Services Firefighter of the Year. Matt Dey was honored on Saturday during the first in-person annual dinner celebration since 2019. As a result, several recognitions received by the team cover a two-year period due to the pandemic.

Dey has been a member of the department’s paid-on-call staff since 2018, and his colleagues say that through his actions he exemplifies a selfless commitment to his community.

South Haven Area Emergency Services Executive Director Brandon Hinz says, “Matt came to us from the Buchanan Fire Department,” and adds, “He moved to the South Haven area and sought us out which is a pretty good sign. He has not let us down.”

Three times during the 2020 summer season Dey was a key responder during water-rescue responses by the department. In June, after receiving a report of kayakers being blown out into Lake Michigan and spotting them through binoculars, he commandeered a nearby jet ski and was able to reach the distressed parties and render assistance until the department’s boat arrived on scene. Later in the summer, Dey assisted kayakers who became swamped in the Black River while attempting to venture out into the lake. As the summer concluded and while on duty as part of the department’s Beach Safety Flag patrol, he witnessed two people being washed off the South Pier into the lake, and successfully reached an unconscious man and was able to bring him to shore where he was revived.

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Chief Hinz, who became chief during 2020, reflected on the past year, noting: “2020 was hard,” and adding, “We experienced increased call volume, a pandemic, we lost two friends (retired firefighters Stanley Wakild and Tom Leva), record high water levels, employees retiring, new employees, new command staff…a lot of changes. Throughout all of that we were still here, providing service to our area to the best of our ability. I’ve always known this is a great organization and am proud to be a part of it. I can’t tell you the comfort that comes from knowing every call is covered and it’s covered right.”

Years of service awards were presented to:

  • Gerald Sajewski, 35 years
  • Ronald Wise and Tom Renner, 30 years
  • Brad Filbrandt, Brian Horan, Sr., and Donald Quinn, 25 years
  • Dustin Guminski and Mark Kaput, 20 years
  • Cesar Garcia, 15 years
  • David Griessel, Drexal Haner, Phillip Quinn, Shawn Smith and Tim Vanholt, 10 years
  • Zachary Kenreich, Cody Sedlak and Jon Vandenberg, 5 years

Three members of the SHAES governing board were recognized for their service – Casco Township supervisor Allan Overhiser for 35 years; South Haven Township supervisor Ross Stein for 25 years; and Geneva Township Supervisor Nancy Whaley for 20 years.

Welcomed as new paid-on-call members were William Brennan, Jacob Clemons, Zachary Hanner, Phillip Poole, Aaron Sawyer and Kevin Wildey. Cody Sedlak and Amanda Quinn were promoted to fulltime firefighter/paramedic and Drexal Haner was hired as fulltime assistant fire inspector.

The department’s dive team saw a major increase in membership adding Drexal Haner, Phil Poole, Phillip Quinn, Aaron Sawyer, Cody Sedlak and Kevin Wildey.

The photo of Matt Dey and Chief Hinz accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is courtesy of Professional Photographer Tom Renner of South Haven.