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New London - At the annual Firefighters Day celebration on Sunday afternoon, Larry Cochran Sr. was the only absent honoree.
Cochran died in January before he could accept his award for firefighter of the year for his long service to the Goshen Fire Department in Waterford. The family of Cochran, a lifetime member of the fire department and a graduate of Waterford High School, accepted the award on his behalf.
Cochran's recognition included the traditional "vacant chair" toast: "Now the golden cord is severed/He has passed to realms on high."
Cochran was among 11 award recipients at the event. Dozens of people gathered in the upstairs of the New London Elks Lodge 360 to cheer on their relatives, friends and co-workers as they were honored by fire chiefs and town officials from New London, Waterford, East Lyme and Montville.
Among the other honorees were Lawrence + Memorial Hospital paramedic Stephanie Archambault, Mohegan Sun Tribal Fire Department firefighter Ronald York, Jordan firefighter Timothy O'Neill, Quaker Hill firefighter Marcus Milukas, Oswegatchie firefighter Justin Sylvestre, Niantic firefighter Michael Nebelung, Montville firefighter Randall Grout, Oakdale firefighter Arthur Brooks, Chesterfield firefighter Michael Lewis, and New London Fire Department Chief Ronald Samul.
Samul came to the New London Fire Department in 1970 and was appointed chief in 1985. New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said Samul, who will retire in a month, is either the longest-serving or one of the longest-serving fire chiefs in the Northeast.
Samul received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Montville Mayor Ron McDaniel said the fire departments in all of the towns have a special bond of cooperation and teamwork.
"I think it's very important that people recognize that when any of you is in trouble, you all rally around to help each other out," he said. "It's incredible what you all do."