Celebrating her 24 years as Bartow County Fire Department administrative assistant Wednesday, McCoy said she planned her exit to coincide with her 55th birthday.
“It’s a passion that nobody understands. The fire department is a team,” she said of the agency. “To be a part of that team is an honor, not an obligation.”
In June 1989, McCoy was hired by then chief Ernest Miller after being laid off from Lockheed. The mother of two said through the years, BCFD became an extension of her own family.
“I raised the girls in this department. ... My girls have had accidents and ... these firemen have stayed and sat beside my children until I got here,” McCoy said. “... When my mom passed away, they stood outside the church because the church was so full and their feet were freezing off — they didn’t leave until they could see me. That is what this place is about.”
And, McCoy said, that was something she learned early.
“Years ago, I got in trouble for saying ‘mine,’” McCoy said. “My assistant chief ... at that time told me, ‘There is nothing within this service belongs to anyone. If you are not a team player and a team member and it’s we as a group, it’ll never ever do it.’ You can’t put a fire out by yourself. You can’t do all the extrication, all the CPR by yourself. You can’t do nothing in this department by yourself.”
During McCoy’s retirement celebration this week, those within the agency expressed how deep her departure will be felt.
“I don’t think a majority of the people in this department has a clue what she did behind the scenes to hold this department together,” said Fire Chief Craig Millsap. “Because, frankly, she is that — she is the glue that holds this department together.”
Retired BCFD Capt. Colleen Cochran, who joined the department as the first female firefighter just six months after McCoy, said the two became not just colleagues but friends.
“Eunice and I became friends and it developed into, she’s just like a sister to me. She’s the best friend anyone could have,” Cochran said. “Eunice is loyal, dedicated, and Eunice is the type who will always be there no matter what. You can always count on Eunice.
“They will not really realize it until she’s gone just how much she’s done for the department, just individuals period. She did things that, she went over and above what her job title was. She was their friend, their mother and sometimes she’d scold you if you needed scolding.”
BCFD Sgt. Lisa Hahn agreed.
“She’s our mother. ... She’s a good friend,” she said. “Not to mention, just on the business end of things, she has the answer for everything, and if she doesn’t, she digs to find it. Anything to help you, she is a helper.
“It’s going to be a huge loss. Eunice knows everything about everything.”
For those who spent time around McCoy and the department, it became evident she ran a tight ship, and for McCoy, knowledge was key to the position.
“They have always showed me the utmost respect, so it’s not a tight ship,” she said. “If I ever asked anyone to do anything, it was always ... respect they showed me and did what I asked.
“Being the only person in the office environment besides the supervisors and the only person here on a 40-hour basis that’s here every day eight hours, you have to know what’s going on. You have to be willing to help because it’s a team effort.”
Her willingness to help is a trait she has shown throughout her life.
“She’s nurturing,” said McCoy’s sister, Darlene Fountain. “... She’s the one that gives. She doesn’t expect a lot for herself.”
In addition to Commissioner Steve Taylor, Bartow County EMS Director Larry Owens recognized McCoy Wednesday with a plaque for her assistance to his agency. Although a BCFD employee, EMS is headquartered in the same building and McCoy assisted Owens’ department as well.
“Eunice, we are going to miss you — for a week anyway,” Owens joked.
“... Your skill, compassion and commitment to the Emergency Services have enabled our department’s greater success. Always know that your dedicated work and kind friendship will always remain a part of who we are. Thanks for all that you have done,” he read from the marker.
With her departure, McCoy said she hoped the department continued her efforts, most importantly the Christmas dinner she helped begin in her first year with BCFD.
“It’s still to honor all fire service and their family. It’s still to honor them once a year and all the dedication that they do,” she said.
And McCoy’s party planning skills are fond memories for those who’ve worked with her.
“I love her talent for finding people’s, like for retirements and things like that, she picks out the individual’s like, what they like the most,” Hahn said. “She is attuned to everybody and she makes every retirement or any get-together about that person. There is no doubt it’s for that individual.”
One of those is Cochran.
“I think what will always stand out is what Eunice did for my retirement,” she said. “That was over and above. ... There’s not just one special thing because what Eunice has always done has been sincere and from the heart.”
Now, with her last day here, McCoy said she plans to enjoy retirement.
“I’m going to go home and enjoy what I have. I have no more than I’ve got right now. I want to be able to enjoy what I’ve got,” she said. “There’s a passion in each and every person in this department, somewhere, somehow, that each person has touched me. This is the best job in the county.”