.

County Ranger Bryant Pitchford, left, presents Reggie Stevenson with a plaque and certificate in recognition of his many years of service with the N.C. Forest Service during a surprise retirement dinner last Thursday. Stevenson retired in April.

Colleagues at the N.C. Forest Service’s Warren County office, family and friends gathered at the Warrenton Rural fire station in Warrenton last Thursday to honor Reginald Stevenson, who retired earlier this spring after 31 years of service to the community.

Stevenson worked for five years with the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Warren County center before joining the N.C. Forest Service as the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

While he was a student at South Warren Elementary School, representatives of the Warren County Forestry Association gave presentations about fire safety, which often included visits from Smokey Bear. Stevenson credits those experiences with influencing his career choice.

“I thought that would be cool,” he told the newspaper.

His life came full circle after he joined the Forest Service. Stevenson has donned the Smokey Bear costume many times for fire safety programs.

However, there was a much more dangerous side to his work. Stevenson considered a career of protecting lives and property as a way to give back to his community and areas beyond, even if that meant placing his life in danger.

He was glad that he could use his knowledge to help Warren County’s volunteer fire departments battle flames. Stevenson also answered the call to fight forest fires and wildfires in Alaska, Nevada, Washington, Florida and Texas.

“I was never injured,” he said.

In retirement, Stevenson hopes to return to farming, growing collards for roadside markets and direct sales, and to become involved in service to the community. He also wants to take the time to sit back, relax and go fishing.

Stevenson’s wife, Mary, praised her husband.

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “I didn’t realize how dangerous wildfires could be, that courage and bravery in the face of all that danger.”