“Know what you stand for and stand tall”
Bobby Grady/Health Editoremail@example.com
Don “Pappy” Sutton, one of the founders of St. Michael’s Fire and Rescue (SMFR), died Oct. 14 at 95 years old.
Sutton served as the chief of the department for SMFR from 1969 to 1990. In retirement, he maintained a close relationship with SMFR and made a lasting impact on all 700 alumni who have gone through the department.
In 1969, A student died on campus and many, including Sutton, believed that if there had been a timelier emergency service response, the student would have lived.
Sutton and a group of students banded together to create what is now SMFR.
“He couldn’t see a problem and not try to figure it out. He understood the importance of having a conversation, talking about what’s going on and how can we fix it and make it better,” said Leslie Lindquist ‘05, an SMFR alumna who currently sits on the department’s board of directors.
Sutton worked incredibly hard to build the foundation for what is now SMFR.
“In the early days of Fire and Rescue, we had nothing. We were begging and borrowing and scraping by to make things work. They got an old security van and some basic equipment and started responding to calls,” Lindquist said. “He built something really special here alongside the students who saw a problem and wanted to fix it.” Aside from SMFR, Sutton helped the larger community.
“He did a ton of work for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, the camp in South Hero for kids who have cancer or their families. He
helped move a church from Malletts Bay to the camp and he famously hosted super bingo at one of the big hotels in Burlington, which was a fundraiser for camp,” Lindquist said.
After graduating in 2005, Lindquist stayed involved with SMFR and served as the rescue chief from 2015 to 2019. During her tenure, she developed a strong friendship with Sutton.
“Some of my happiest memories of Pappy are just having a meal in Alliot,” Lindquist said. “He’d meet us on campus, or we’d go pick him up. We would sit around a table and break bread. He would have a cup of coffee and a cookie, and we would sit around and talk. He’d ask what’s going on and without a doubt, he would end up talking about our [SMFR] past and where we come from.”
Sutton was famous for his memorable anecdotes.
“He was always telling us stories,” said fire captain Garrett Cournoyer ‘24. “The biggest story that everyone brings up is when he got the first fire engine. He had to drive it up from Pennsylvania or New Jersey and he had to drive it up in the middle of a snowstorm. He had a space heater and a snowmobile suit and drove 10 hours up.”
Sutton’s impact and influence are still felt today. Inside the Fire and Rescue building is a wall of patches from different fire departments and ambulance services where SMFR alumni have gone on to work. The departments and services range from Alaska to New York City.
“He emphasized figure out what you’re passionate about and stick to it,” Lindquist said. “Every opportunity, experience, and mistake could be a lesson and a learning opportunity. He encouraged all of us to never stop learning and never stop helping.”
Peter Worrell ‘79, an alumnus of the department, gave Sutton’s eulogy. He talked about how Sutton impacted his life.
“My relationship with him was not complicated. He gave me unconditional love and unconditional encouragement,” Worrell said.
Hanging in the SMFR building is his quote, “Know what you stand for and stand tall,” words that remain the foundation of SMFR.