Saying goodbye

Chief Nelson Short was greeted with salutes from his colleagues as he walked into his surprise retirement party on Sunday at the Chuck Mathena Center. Short retired after 55 years and has worked with various departments from across Mercer County. 

PRINCETON — After 55 years of service as a firefighter, Nelson Short, chief of the East River Volunteer Fire Department, has retired.

Short’s fellow firefighters organized a surprise retirement party on Sunday. Thinking that this was the make-up Christmas party that had to be rescheduled due to last December’s weather, Short was none the wiser.

Upon walking in, firemen of the East River Volunteer Fire Department filed along each side of the door and saluted as he walked in. Surprised by the true party intention, Short smiled from ear to ear.

“I’m real surprised. I thought there was something was up when my wife told me to wear my full uniform in the middle of summer. This means the world to me that they did this,” Short said.

At the celebration, Short’s friends and coworkers congratulated him on his dedicated years of service and thanked him as well. With a line of those waiting to shake his hand, a look of pure gratefulness covered Short’s face.

After 55 years as a firefighter, Short has worked with many men and women. Short has also worked with many organizations throughout the area to which he has made many friends. Of firemen in attendance, uniforms showed Montcalm Volunteer Fire Department, East River Volunteer Fire department, Green Valley/Glenwood Fire Department, Princeton Fire Department, and more.

Of what he’ll miss the most about firefighting, Short said, “The guys. Definitely the guys. There’s always a bunch of stuff going on and I’m going to miss that.”

Though Short is stepping into retirement, the East River Volunteer Fire Department will not be without a fire chief. Having been groomed for the position by Short, Charlie Blankenship will be stepping up.

“For the past two to three years Nelson has kind of moved me into the position and showed me what to do,” Blankenship said, “Nelson is a pillar of this community. He really loved what he did. To have done it for 55 years he really loved what he did.”

Contact Emily D. Coppola at