Edward J. Cotter, Jr. Memorial Fund
Est. 2012 as a designated fund by Ellen Cotter Lenart and David Lenart in memory of Edward J. Cotter, Jr. to benefit the Storm Engine Company Ambulance and Rescue Corps and the Church of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception.
Edward J. Cotter, Sr. served as Chief of the Derby Fire Department a century ago. When his son, Edward J. Cotter, Jr. graduated from high school and accepted a job as a sports reporter for the Evening Sentinel in 1939, the elder Mr. Cotter pointed out that the firehouse was right next door to the newspaper office.
"That started my grandfather down his path of volunteering and saving lives," said David Lenart, his grandson.
Cotter was a local legend and, when he passed away, it made sense to Lenart to honor a life dedicated to the community by establishing the Edward J. Cotter, Jr. Memorial Fund.
The young Ed Cotter Jr. enlisted with the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II, sharing his lifesaving knowledge and skills by teaching shipboard firefighting techniques. He participated in the battle of Okinawa.
"The Navy has always been on the forefront of firefighting technology because you really only have two choices on a ship—put out the fire or swim," David said.
Cotter returned to volunteer at the fire department after the war. Just a few years after returning, Ed and fellow firefighter, Richard Kieley, saw a need in 1948 for ambulance services to better transport people to the hospital."
At the time, police departments and funeral homes answered calls for emergency healthcare. "The early ambulances looked like hearses because they actually were hearses built for a new purpose," David said. Local Valley businesses helped raise enough money to fund the Storm Ambulance Corps' first ambulance.
"My grandfather ran the Corps from that point until 1985 and, shortly after, my father, Thomas Lenart, took over and ran the Corps until 2010," said Lenart.
Ed Cotter Jr. went on to be a Fire Chief of the Derby Fire Department and a Fire Commissioner in Derby. Cotter Jr. would become instrumental in starting the Valley Fire Training School and was a drillmaster in the New Haven Fire School.
Cotter also pursued a second career as a Derby reporter and photographer for The Evening Sentinel. He was also a photographer for the Derby Police Department.
David also ran the Storm Ambulance Corps after his father and is proud of his grandfather's legacy. He is currently the Assistant Chief of the Derby fire Department. In addition, David's mother, Ellen Lenart, and his sister, Brie are EMTs. His older brother, Thomas Lenart, Jr., is a past Chief of the Derby Fire Department.
Edward J. Cotter, Jr. dedicated his life as a volunteer firefighter, leading the community through events such as the Flood of 1955, and was inducted to the Connecticut Halls of Fame for both Journalism and Firefighters, as well as the Derby Hall of Fame. The fund in his name benefits Storm Ambulance Corps and St. Mary's Church in Derby, where he attended mass several times each week. David said. "Supporting these two groups through this fund was a natural fit and a great way to honor his legacy."
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