TODD MISSION — Cassandra Malone was elected as the Todd Mission Volunteer Fire Chief replacing Troy Wilkie and becoming the first female fire chief in Grimes County.
“It is an honor beyond comprehension knowing that I have such an inspirational crew walking this path with me and that we have outstanding departments to mentor us along this beautiful journey,” said Malone. “I have encountered great leaders and great departments that have challenged me and taught me well so that I can pass down that information to new recruits as they walk through our doors.”
Malone credits the support of some of the other Grimes County fire chiefs for the growth of the Todd Mission Volunteer Fire Department and her success.
“Chief Dan Sharron of Shiro VFD has taught me a tremendous amount about the fire service and continues to inspire us as they offer assistance to each of the new members at our station; Chief Larry Vickers of Whitehall and the entire Whitehall VFD have been a great inspiration to our department and continues to assist us to become the best we can be and build a strong working relationship with one another,” explained Malone. “Chief Katkoski and the entire staff at Navasota Fire Department continue to be a strong inspiration to us. Their high standards and devout level of professionalism gives us a goal of where we want to see our department in the future.”
Malone spent much of her life with her grandparents, Joy and Curtis Cook, and after her mother passed away in 2004 her grandparents took her in permanently.
Joy was a retired registered nurse and Curtis a retired vice president of Cabot Oil and Gas, which kept the family on the move a lot.
Malone said she was admitted into college at the age of 14 and, with the guidance of her grandfather, she began to pursue a career in forensic chemistry and criminal justice, until family tragedy hit Malone once again.
“My grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and my grandma with COPD and emphysema when I turned 17,” said Malone. “My grandparents were always there for me, so I knew without question it was time for me to repay them for everything they had given me. I ceased my college journey and stayed home with them as we embarked on this tragic journey together.”
Malone said, as they faced the unimaginable terrors of Alzheimer’s, she learned valuable lessons from her grandmother.
“When the time came to admit my grandfather into a nursing home, my grandma and I visited him faithfully every day,” explained Malone.
At the point in her life, Malone began working in the volunteer fire service.
“I informed my grandmother that I had joined the volunteer fire service and asked her if she thought my grandpa would be proud,” said Malone. “At that moment, he looked me in the eye and said, ‘yes I am.’ That was his only moment of clarity that day, and at that point I knew I would pursue the fire service in his honor.”
While her grandfather was still being cared for at the nursing home, Malone said her grandmother spent a minimum of eight hours a day there becoming a “guardian angel” to those in the Alzheimer’s unit.
Malone said her grandmother adopted all the Alzheimer’s patients calling them her “little people.”
“She showered them with attention, compassion and gifts,” said Malone. “It was an overwhelming feeling to walk through the doors and see so many patients that had been forgotten, reaching out for someone to care. It would take us over an hour to reach my grandpa’s room because we hugged, talked to and gave treats to all the people we encountered. It was inspiring to see how many lives she touched just with a smile and the sincerity she showed when inquiring about their day.”
In 2015, Malone’s grandfather passed away. The people at the nursing home shared in the grieving process with Malone and her grandmother. A year later, Malone lost her grandmother.
“She was the most inspirational human being I had ever encountered and continues to inspire me through her passing,” explained Malone.
It wasn’t until after her grandmother’s passing that Malone found out a secret that her grandma kept close to her heart.
“Every year, she would secretly select someone who had good grades and wanted to go to college but couldn’t afford it and sponsor them for their first two years in full,” said Malone.
Malone said all the time she spent with her grandmother influenced her hobbies and interests.
“I’ve spent countless hours and money rescuing animals, in the same manner my grandmother was always there helping people in need,” said Malone. “I have a strong desire to help others in the way my grandmother helped those she knew personally and even complete strangers. Those I work with in the fire service have become as near and dear to me as the ‘little people’ were to my grandmother. Regardless if I’ve known them for years or they are our newest member, they are all of the upmost importance to me.”
The need to help others has overflowed from Malone, resulting in her department helping those who are outside the borders of Todd Mission. Saturday, tragedy struck Franklin in the form of a tornado and Malone and the Todd Mission VFD did not hesitate to lend a helping hand. Tracy Stone, recently widowed and a dear friend to a majority of the TMVFD, had her room torn from her home as well as many other damages. Members of the department arrived with supplies and tools and secured her home and began damage control.
“I have been asked several times what the firefighters at TMVFD are like and words can’t express enough how much heart they all have; this is just another example,” read a Facebook post by Michael Doering, thanking the department for their service. “It is because of their passion to help others that that they were able to quickly assemble a productive and passionate team to send to Franklin. This is just one of many examples of what the hearts at TMVFD are like.”
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