By Linda Cicoira
Denise Bowden was given the 2022 Dink Thornton Officer of the Year Award by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company recently at its 97th Annual Awards Banquet.
It was the second time the well-known volunteer received the award, winning the first time in 2012. Bowden is the only woman to ever get the recognition.
“I am the only female that has won this award,” she said. “But you have to understand, we haven’t had many female officers at all. We do have a female secretary right now. I am very humbled and appreciative that the members have had the faith in me and my abilities to serve the fire company and are community.”
Over the years, Bowden has been the company’s president, vice president, and secretary. “I am forever grateful and blessed to be a part of this organization,” said Bowden, who now handles public relations for the department, which owns the famous herd of wild ponies.
Hundreds of people sent congratulations via Facebook to Bowden, who is also a member of the Chincoteague Town Council.
“There are many people in this organization who are hard workers (and) make this organization as great as it is,” wrote Barry Diem of New York, who is an annual visitor to Chincoteague Island. “But you, Denise, are a standout. You make it special. The way you speak about Chincoteague and how you love it so much brings people from all over the place to visit one of the greatest places on the Eastern Shore. Congratulations to you and this wonderful fire department that has kept me coming to Chincoteague for the past 50 years,” Diem continued.
“We celebrated the most successful year the fire company has had to date,” Bowden said. “None of this would be possible without the many, many volunteers who spend countless hours making this organization the best it can be.”
Volunteer Ronnie Malone Jr. was named Officer of the Year for “his exceptional job as carnival chairman after COVID.” Other awards included Life Member of the Year to Ollie Reed, Honorary Member of the Year to Billy Reed Jr., E.M.S. Driver of the Year to Joseph Thornton, Auxiliary Member of the Year to Paul Kleckner, Firefighter of the Year to Hunter Leonard, and Junior Firefighter of the Year to Jonathan Holloway.
We also would like to thank our many supporters in any capacity across the country,” Bowden said. “We are lucky to have such strong support through thick and thin. We send you our gratitude and we thank you for your steadfast support of this fire company and all it stands for!”