Firefighters Turn Out for Former Madison Chief’s 100th Birthday Celebration
Family, friends, and the Madison Hose Co. No. 1 drove by to wish former Madison fire chief Adrian “Adie” Ellsworth Bassett a happy 100th birthday in Madison on Aug. 13. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Madison Hose Co. No. 1 arrives with lights flashing. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Adie Basset holds a glass up to friends driving by to wish him a happy birthday. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Adie Basset greets friends driving by to wish him a happy 100th birthday. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)
Birthdays during the pandemic have been a unique experience for many people, as family and friends find ways to create special celebrations and show love without being able to gather in traditional ways. This past week, though, longtime Madison resident and former Madison Hose Co. No. 1 chief Adrian “Adie” Bassett was not celebrating an ordinary birthday, and even by current standards, had a special and unique celebration.
Turning 100 years old last week, Bassett was honored not only with a birthday motorcade of family and friends bringing cards and presents, but by his old fire company, which pulled out all the stops as several fire vehicles and “at least” 50 current and former Madison firefighters stopped by to honor their former chief, according to Bassett’s son, Clay Bassett.
“It was like an old get-together,” Bassett said. “It was absolutely incredible, and my father was totally surprised.”
Current Hose Co. No. 1 Chief Bobby Kyttle said the department members got together more than a month ago and decided they wanted to do something big for their old chief, who is still an honorary member of the company due to his long service. They weren’t alone.
“The family reached out and basically asked us to do exactly what we were going to do anyway,” Kyttle said, laughing.
The elder Bassett, who served for more than 20 years as a Madison firefighter, retired when he was in his mid-50s, his son said. After years of alternating winters and summers between Florida and Madison, Adie Bassett now lives in town full-time, according to Clay Bassett, where he still mows his yard and does his own grocery shopping.
Along with the dozens of family and friends who showed up either in the motorcade or for a little outdoor tented birthday party, the Madison firefighting community showed they never forget a member of their fellowship.
“As a brother and sisterhood, that’s our honor,” Kyttle said. “It’s a respect thing. The fire department is very big on respect of its past members.”
Along with reading an official proclamation from the town, the department also brought a special custom shield with his name on it commemorating the birthday, according to Kyttle.
Another big gesture from Hose. Co. No. 1 was the presence of the town’s antique fire engine, built originally in the 1920s. Usually only used for parades, Kyttle said a member of the department spent the last week polishing and tuning it just for the ride to Adie Bassett’s house.
“They had this incredible get together...All the fireman gathered around it,” Clay Bassett said. “They were sitting on the tailgate of the truck, chatting in little groups all over the place.”
Many generations of Madison firefighters were represented at the party, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s, all showing up to congratulate Bassett, or just to reminiscence on old times.
Kyttle said that Bassett is still very active as an “exempt” member, and that they still see him driving to the post office, waving or honking his horn to “make his presence known” around the old fire building. Even the newest members of the company who don’t know him personally share something with the now 100 year-old Bassett, he said.
“They got to meet him that day,” Kyttle said, “there’s a connection with him just being involved in the department that he once ran.”
Kyttle himself had only just been born when Bassett retired from Hose Co. No. 1 back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, but said even as a kid, he was aware of the old chief and his impact on the community.
Clay Bassett said that his father’s long service and presence in Madison made the birthday celebration a beautiful, nostalgic, and joyful occasion for everyone involved—particularly friends from back in the day.
“Many of these firemen were old—obviously not as old as he is—but old friends and officers from the fire department,” Bassett said. “It was terrific—I mean, the things my father has seen in town…”
Adrian Bassett drove the very first motorized ambulance ever operated in town, according to his son, though that gig did not last long, after he had a very stressful experience helping deliver a baby on his very first day working.
The elder Bassett also worked emergency response during the Hurricane of 1938, owned a racecar, drove snowplows, and sold bicycles, among many other ventures over his life.
Clay Bassett said that after 100 years, his father was really ecstatic to feel this kind of love from his community, and especially from the fraternity of Madison firefighters.
“I think he feels pretty blessed,” he said.