FLORENCE, Ore. -- On a troop ship on its way across the Pacific Ocean during World War II, Steve Olienyk made a deal with God.
"It was at that moment that I made a promise that I would dedicate the rest of my life to serving others if I were to come back safe and sound," the Army veteran said at the Siuslaw Fire and Rescue Station in Florence on Sunday.
"He kept his promise, and now I've got to keep mine," he said.
And Olienyk has been serving others in Oregon ever since - 43 years to be exact - with two of those decades at the Siuslaw Fire Station as a member of the volunteer board of directors.
Fire Chief John Buchanan said Olienyk has made countless contributions over the years including organizing a memorial wall and park for veterans, heading up the holiday flag program in town and serving in Rotary, Kiwanis Club and The Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"It's been a long time coming," said Buchanan, sitting across from Olienyk two hours before the celebration ceremony.
Olienyk was honored Sunday night by the station for his years of service, a celebration "with his two families: his family and the firefighters."
"The only mistake he made was hiring me as fire chief 15 years ago," said Buchanan with a laugh.
Despite Olienyk's many contributions, Buchanan said it's their relationship that he cherishes the most.
"Steve never really knew this, but I inherited him as my father after my father passed on as a firefighter," said Buchanan. "Steve just stepped right into that role for me."
Now 84 years old, Olienyk said he is slowing down but will continue to fulfill his role as president of the board of directors for volunteers at the Siuslaw Fire Station as long as possible.
"I've still got it," said Olienyk, setting up for the night's event.
Looking at the rows of empty chairs Sunday afternoon, soon to be filled with his best friends and family members, Olienyk added, "This event is the highlight of my life."
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