Like a good neighbor, Roger Bisland is there

By SUSAN WADE
Posted 4/14/21

GLEN SPEY, NY — It may not have officially been “Roger Bisland Day” on Saturday, April 10, but a casual passerby would not have known it.

That’s because friends and …

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Like a good neighbor, Roger Bisland is there

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GLEN SPEY, NY — It may not have officially been “Roger Bisland Day” on Saturday, April 10, but a casual passerby would not have known it.

That’s because friends and admirers of Roger Bisland of Glen Spey came out in droves to participate in an emergency services tribute drive-by that was organized by members of the Lumberland Fire Department. This was to honor a man who has served his community for most of his 80-year life, including 57 years with the Lumberland Fire Department and almost three decades with the ambulance service, which is a part of the department.

And this is only a part of the service Bisland has rendered to the Town of Lumberland and surrounding communities. His resume is extensive and includes, but is not limited to, service as town supervisor; 22 years in the Monticello Police Department, 11 as chief; 30 years of service in the Lumberland Lions, many of which while serving as president; major involvement in the Community Club, which provided, among other services, a Christmas present to every child in the Town of Lumberland; membership in the original Lumberland Planning Board; sponsor of countless fundraising efforts; and agent of choice for many in the community through the Bisland Insurance Agency in Glen Spey.

Even this extensive resume does not reflect the lives Bisland, along with Kathy, his wife of 60 years, have touched through their generosity of spirit and purse.

For Bisland, life is about family and community. Roger and Kathy’s five children have given them 17 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren with two more on the way.

And their partnership gives meaning to the adage that behind every great man is a great woman. Kathy has been the driving force and support behind the scenes and is an amazing volunteer in her own right. She also has always known her place in the hierarchy. Said she, “Roger would come home from his job as police chief with strong suggestions about what and how things should be done at home, and I’d remind him that he was the chief, but I am the commissioner.”

Bisland began his career as a volunteer fireman with the Port Jervis Fire Department at the age of 18. At the time, a reason to join was that he was able to get out of work when a call would come in. That thought process followed him when, years later, he became one of the volunteer ambulance drivers for Lumberland along with one of his employees. He could get out of work when a call came in and still get paid, he said. It was convenient that his wife, also his business partner, wrote the paychecks.

But it was so much more than that. Another compelling reason to get involved in ambulance service was a thread woven through much of his life. At a time of crisis, it was reassuring to the victim to see a familiar, calming face.

That same reasoning guided him to areas of employment as well as service. In addition to his police service, it was one of the reasons he purchased the insurance agency that had been founded by his father. The time people need their insurance agent is when they’ve suffered a great loss. He embodies the familiar insurance slogan, “Like a good neighbor, Roger Bisland is there.” The head of the Glen Spey Cemetery Board for many years, he likewise would walk the cemetery grounds, maps in hand, with the bereaved as they selected just the right spot to be their beloved’s final resting place.

Bisland’s passion has always been and always will be people. When there was talk (pre-COVID) of making the annual fire department chicken dinner a take-out only venture, he opposed the idea, believing that the effort had a two-fold purpose: not only to support the department but also to bring the community together to sit, break bread and become even more cohesive.

Asked to provide a contributed photo of Bisland for this article, this large family could not come up with even one of Roger alone. He was always surrounded by people, as the photos reflect his life of focusing on others.

Roger and Kathy have passed down their love of family and community to future generations. It is a rich heritage, indeed. Service rendered by the children and grandchildren is a given, but even the great-grandkids are involved in community efforts.

The participants in the drive-by included the Lumberland and Highland Lake constables; Monticello and Port Jervis police; Sullivan County sheriffs; New York State police; Lumberland, Highland Lake, Summitville, Callicoon, Lake Huntington, Yulan, Sparrowbush, Matamoras and Shohola fire departments; American Legion ambulance and Lions Club; and members of the general public.

On the afternoon of the drive-by, more than 35 family members were on hand to share the experience with him.

Bisland sat on the porch of his Glen Spey home and watched as vehicle after vehicle representing service department after service department, and scores of private citizens drove by with flashing lights and blaring sirens and horns. Participants stated that it was their honor to share their good wishes for this fine man.

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