News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, April 19, 2018
Penobscot fire chief hangs up his helmet
Robertson steps down from department

A wave from the chief

Dennis Robertson gives a wave during the 2016 Penobscot Days parade.

Penobscot Bay Press file photo

by Monique Labbe

After 28 years on the Penobscot fire department and 11 years as chief, Dennis Robertson has decided to retire from the life of a fireman.

“I’m getting older, tired, my body has been through a lot the last few years,” said Robertson.

The decision was not an easy one for Robertson, who, at 65 years old, said he would have kept going if his body would have allowed him to.

“If I was younger, I would have loved to keep going,” he said. “But I can’t run into a burning building like I used to.”

During his time on the department, Robertson helped in the process of getting a new fire station in town. The old one, he said, was without running water and even a bathroom. The new one has both.

“When I took over as chief, I thought there were going to be a million ways I would make a fool of myself,” he said with a chuckle. “But I think it turned out okay.”

Robertson added that it has been an “honor” to serve the town of Penobscot as its fire chief.

“I’ve worked with a great group of people over the years, and I have loved serving the community,” he said.

Robertson has plenty to keep him busy despite his retirement from the department. He and his wife, Trish, have owned Eggemoggin Country Store for the last 28 years.

“This place keeps me busy,” said Robertson while sitting in the back of his store. “I’d like to slow down at some point, but then you think about what you could be doing here even when you aren’t here.”

Slowing down is something Robertson said his body has been telling him to do for several years after having battled pancreatic cancer five years ago.

“Cancer was tough,” said Robertson. “I was given less than a year to live.”

Robertson underwent a Whipple procedure, during which the doctor removed his gallbladder, 15 percent of his stomach and one-third of his pancreas. Despite the procedure, some of the cancer remained in his body.

“I was dying,” he said. “Had it not been for my wife, I probably would have died. She made sure I was eating and drinking even when I didn’t want to.”

One of his most vivid memories of that time is a night the members of the fire department were supposed to be having a meeting. Instead, they showed up at Robertson’s house.

“I remember, they walked in and they were in their dress uniforms,” he said. “That show of respect, it brought tears to my eyes.”

Five years later, Robertson has beat the cancer and is in better health. With that second chance, he said he hopes to check a few things off his bucket list with his wife in the next few years.

“There are some things in the works [for ECS],” said Robertson. “But I think we’ll still be here for the next year or so.”

After that, the couple wants to see a few sights across the country, especially the Grand Canyon. He has family in Hawaii too, he said, and would not be opposed to spending a few months of the year there.

Born and raised in Penobscot, Robertson said that despite not being able to travel to many of the places they would have liked, he feels privileged to have lived a life that allowed him to put his family, and community, first.

“I was able to go to all the kids’ sporting events, and take part in some really great things,” he said. “Now, the good Lord has given me a second chance, and I need to take advantage of that.”