Fire Department assistant retires after four decades serving Greenfield

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 08-02-2023 2:55 PM

GREENFIELD — After 40-plus years of setting her alarm to wake up for work each morning, Lorie Cowan did as she always would on the morning of her retirement.

“I actually went to reset [the alarm] for the next day and realized I didn’t have to do it anymore,” said Cowan, who retired this week as the Fire Department’s administrative assistant. “It’s definitely bittersweet.”

On Monday, the Fire Department bid farewell to Cowan, 62, who has served as a city employee since 1978 and as the department’s administrative assistant since 1993.

“She’s been at the Fire Department longer than anybody else,” said Fire Chief Robert Strahan. “We’re very happy she’s going to retire but sad to see her go. She’s been a great asset to the Fire Department.”

Cowan will be succeeded by Human Resources Assistant Shannon Frentzos.

Though a longtime employee of the Fire Department, Cowan has seen how the city functions from several perspectives. At 17 years old, she worked in the treasurer’s office as part of a program now known as the Franklin Hampshire Employment & Training Consortium. When the program ended, Cowan was offered a job.

“Everything was done by hand,” she recalled. “I learned the first computer and when people paid their excise tax, we used to do that by hand and run all the books by hand, and [the books] were huge. … [The city] has come a long way since then.”

After working in the treasurer’s office, Cowan took some time off for the birth of her son. She later accepted a job as the accounts payable clerk in Greenfield’s Accounting Department, where she paid the city’s bills.

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Then, in 1993, Fire Chief James Mackenzie called to say he was looking for a part-time person for his department. He offered her mother’s hours to accommodate the child care issues she was dealing with at the time.

“He was my first chief,” the Gill resident said of Mackenzie. Cowan would go on to work for the next six chiefs to lead the department.

Cowan said she took some time off as the Fire Department’s administrative assistant to work for Christine Forgey when she served as mayor in the early 2000s. She always knew, however, that she’d eventually return to the Fire Department.

“I knew that was my home,” she said. “And there, I sat there until the end.”

When she first joined the department, the firefighters she worked with were like her “fathers and brothers.” Now, she joked, they’re more like her brothers and sons.

“You watch all the retirees throughout the years, and when they come in, they’re actually younger than my son,” she said. “I feel like I have a big family there. They’re definitely good people. They’ve done a lot for me over the years.”

Cowan, who grew up in Greenfield, said she isn’t sure what’s next for her just yet.

“I’m still trying to figure that out,” she said. “I’ll probably want to take a few trips … but I’m still kind of in a daze. You do something for so many years and it’s like, wow, what are you going to do [next]?”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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