By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman Fire Department’s longest tenured employee celebrated his retirement with the community this week at a city hall reception.
Dana Cramer has been serving the city as a firefighter for 35 years. He has worked all three shifts and has been working in primarily rescue training for the past three or four years.
“Dana taught me a lot, just watching him,” Norman Fire Chief James Fullingim said at the reception. “You hear about servant leaders, and a lot of people think they know what that is. Well, if you really want to know what that is, you need to look at Dana because he’s been serving people as long as he’s been here.”
Fullingim said Cramer has been involved in a lot of things in both the community and the fire department over the years.
When Cramer served as president of Oklahoma State Firefighters Association, Fullingim said he remembers reading an article Cramer wrote every month, always signing it with “be a leader.”
“Every month, I’d read that paper. I’d look at that and think, ‘You know, I guess that’s true. I guess we should all be a leader.’ So, he’s had an impact on people for a long time around here,” he said.
Cramer served on the local pension board and currently serves on the state pension board, too.
“I don’t know if people really recognize the dedication and the time and effort that takes,” Fullingim said of Cramer serving on the state board.
Cramer was also one of the original members of Oklahoma Task Force 1 and has been interested in rescue for a long time, Fullingim said. He is currently a liaison for the Public Safety Sales Tax oversight committee.
“I think he may be the only person that makes it there every time. I think he makes it there more often than I do,” Fullingim said, adding that Cramer has also served on different boards throughout the community.
Cramer said he originally became a firefighter to help people.
“It was a great opportunity to help the community. My parents were involved in the community and I think that kind of brushed off onto me,” Cramer said. “It’s a good feeling to be able to help people.”
During his 35-year career, Cramer said the thing he is most proud of is receiving the David Bain Award from the OSFA. The award recognizes individuals who have provided service both to their community and the OSFA and who have also “proven to be a person of courage and impeccable character,” according to the association’s website.
Cramer was the first person to ever receive the award, which is named after a former OSFA president and Midwest City fire chief. Bain died of cancer, and the award is given in honor of him every year.
“He (Bain) was really involved in the fire service and we were really good friends,” Cramer said. “Me being friends with him, it meant a lot.”
While Cramer said he has been fortunate enough to receive a lot of accolades and awards throughout his career, he didn’t get into firefighting for the awards.
“It just kind of happened along the way. I just enjoy helping people and trying to do my little part in the world,” he said.
While Cramer said he’s looking forward to getting to play some golf with his free time and getting some things done on his “honey do” list, he still plans on staying involved in the community.
He said he’s probably going to miss all of the guys at the fire department the most and the camaraderie that came along with working there, but over the years he’s learned a lot of good pranks.
“We used to have a clown society, and Dana was a member of the clown society,” Fullingim said as the crowd at the retirement reception laughed.
Fullingim had several stories to tell about Cramer’s clowning around.
“A long time ago, back when Dana used to walk and have a little spring in his step and all that stuff, he was known for grabbin’ a hold of people,” Fullingim said.
Cramer had been a wrestler, so he took advantage of the situation, coming up from behind people and putting his knuckle on a person’s chest. Then he got stabbed in the back of the hand because of it, Fullingim said as the crowd let out some more laughter.
“(The firefighter) as big as he was, as strong as he was, he still couldn’t get away, so he worked a pocket knife out of his pocket and finally stabbed Dana in the back of the hand — and Dana let go,” Fullingim said.
Then there was a time when Cramer decided to bring a turkey for Thanksgiving.
“I don’t know if he mentioned that he was going to bring a live turkey and turn it loose in the bedroom with people back there sleeping, but he did,” Fullingim said.
While there are a lot of funny stories Fullingim said he could have told, the point was that Cramer always had fun with his job. When Fullingim started his career as a firefighter at the age of 19, he said Cramer was always there looking out for him.
“He was the guy that made sure I had my pants on the night before we went out, or he tried to,” he said. “I have this problem, I don’t wake up well. So I’d put on the wrong boots, the ones that don’t have any pants with them, and Dana would help me figure it all out, get you dressed and get you on the way.”
When 6:30 a.m. would roll around, Cramer would show up with a cup of coffee telling Fullingim to get up.
“You know, that’s not the way typically the senior guy treats the new guy, but Dana’s always been that way. He’s always been the kind of guy that took care of other people.”
While 35 years is a long time, Fullingim said he thinks Cramer’s time is up.
“I think there’s someone else that’s going to greatly benefit from his presence. He’s made an impact on me, and I think he’s made an impact on everybody in this room,” he said. “Thank you and congratulations.”
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