Doris Groene, who was one of the first women to volunteer with the Vigilant Fire Company ambulance when she joined the fire department on June 2, 1986, and worked her way up to Vigilant Engine & Hook & Ladder Co, Inc., president, passed away on Friday, June 23, at her home in Mesquite, NV, at age 77, after a long battle with cancer related to her service on 9/11.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Groene responded with mutual aid units sent from Great Neck to the World Trade Center (WTC) and Chelsea Piers under the command of First Corporal Kenneth Bleck, who also passed away from WTC-related cancer in September 2016. At Ground Zero, she was exposed to the toxins that are believed to have led to her cancer.
“Doris was another constant at Vigilant,” said Chief Joshua Forst. “She preceded Kenny as president and I was lucky enough to have served directly under her as vice president. She was both a mother figure and a friend. In her later years in Nevada, she would send me letters and newspaper clippings from the local Mesquite newspaper to help guide me as chief. I will miss her advice and her friendship.”
For 25 years, Groene was an anchor in the fire department. She helped create a program with the Merchant Marine Academy to bring cadets to the firehouse as ambulance volunteers. She volunteered on approximately 5,000 ambulance calls and made a special effort to volunteer for shifts covering midnight calls, when the college students were at school.
“When Doris was in her 60s, and most of her contemporaries were winding down their careers and leading less-active lifestyles; she became a medic officer. She led by actions, not words,” said a longtime volunteer. “In one photograph of a water rescue drill at Parkwood Pool, Doris can be seen in the water, in her bathing suit, while holding the front of the backboard.”
Groene served as a member of the Board of Officers from 1993 until right before she moved out of state, serving as corporal and sergeant of the EMS Squad and then vice president and, from 2005 to 2010, the members of the fire company elected Doris as their president. She was awarded the Vigilant EMS Member of the Year Award in 1996 for her service to the community and was the recipient of six Vigilant Lifesaving Awards. She was also active in many Firematic Associations, serving as secretary for the Nassau County Fireman’s Association, sergeant-at-arms and second vice president for the Southern New York Volunteer Firefighter’s Association, as well as on the membership committee of the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York.
“I served as Doris’ Recording Secretary during part of her presidency, and she was a constant source of strength and support,” said Vigilant President Phil Katz. “She was someone I could ask for help knowing she would drop everything for the company. She was a true Vigilant in every sense.”
Doris (Kuhn) Groene was born Nov. 28, 1939, in Great Neck and was a partner in Doray Enterprises before going to work at the Town of North Hempstead, where she had a recognizable voice as a switchboard operator and retired after 22 years.
“While Doris preceded me at the town, I knew her well from my time as a county legislator and a resident of Great Neck,” said Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “There were few people who cared as much about serving the Great Neck community, and I am sure her loss will be felt at Vigilant.”
Groene married the love of her life, Frank “Mickey” Groene, also a Vigilant life member, who she met at the firehouse, in 1998. Her first marriage ended in divorce. The Groene couple moved to Nevada in 2011 to enjoy retirement together. The two were constants at the Eureka in Mesquite, and she was an active member of many local associations in Nevada.
Her life will be celebrated by the company on Friday, June 30, 2017, at 7 p.m. at Vigilant Fire Company headquarters at 83 Cutter Mill Rd. and by family and friends on Saturday, July 1, 9:45 a.m. at St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church at 592 Middle Neck Rd.
Groene was predeceased by her daughter Maureen Akridge and grandson Ryan Akridge. She is survived by Mickey; sons Thomas McDonough, ex-chief of the Port Washington Fire Department; Raymond (Donna) Plakstis, ex-chief of the Alert Fire Company and former trustee of the Village of Great Neck; and stepdaughters Jeannie Groene and Ann (Nicky) White. She was a grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of 5. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in her name to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.