One got his badge back. The other got an award he insisted he did not deserve.
Together, Frank Somma and Robert Flanagan made for an emotional night at the Morristown Council on Tuesday.
“We’ve come a long way in this town,” said Somma, who should know. He is retiring after 47 years as an unpaid special police officer.
Mayor Tim Dougherty proclaimed Tuesday “Frank Somma Day,” and Police Chief Pete Demnitz gave back Somma’s badge — surrendered at retirement–along with a hug.
“Wow,” the chief said. “What else can you say when someone gives you 47 years?”
Somma started as a special officer in 1971. Over the years, he assisted full-time cops on patrols, worked parades, and served as bailiff for the municipal court.
In 1980, he also was named the town’s emergency management coordinator. Somma had to call the mayor, out fishing after his first election victory, with news in 2010 that the library had blown up.
Somma, credited by the mayor with securing federal reimbursements after Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, will continue as Morristown’s deputy coordinator of emergency management.
Flanagan, the fire chief, received a Patriot Award from the Department of Defense. It recognized his support for Firefighter Kevin Morse, a first sergeant in the Army National Guard who is being deployed to the Middle East for the second time.
“I’m not a fan of recognition,” said Flanagan. “But this man here — I call him Sarge at the fire house–he’s the real patriot. He’s being deployed again, away from his wife and children, for another year. To me, you’re the real patriot, and all my thoughts are that you come home safely.”
Gerard Felt, representing the Defense Department, also gave the town a certificate acknowledging its support for Morris, a firefighter for six years and a Guardsman for 28.
Morse was deployed to Bahrain for a year in 2014. Early in 2019, he is bound for Qatar. He won’t come back to visit his wife and two kids, ages 6 and 3, over the next year because returning to duty would be too hard, he said.
Yet he is glad to serve.
“I could retire,” Morse said. “But you get emotionally attached to it. It’s part of your life. It doesn’t let you go.”