County Honors Walnut Hill Man For 37 Years Service To FHP

January 11, 2008

blum.jpgThe Escambia County Commission Thursday night passed a proclamation honoring Harold O. “Sonny” Blum of Walnut Hill for 37 years of service as an auxiliary trooper.

Sonny joined the Florida Highway Patrol Auxiliary on March 27, 1970. During his 37 years volunteering with the auxiliary, he logged over 30,000 hours of service. That would be almost three and a half years at 24 hours a day, seven days a week. sat down with Sonny Wednesday night at his Walnut Hill home. When we contacted him, he had no idea that the county was going to honor him with the proclamation the next evening. He was a bit surprised, he said, as be began to relate a tale 37 years in the making.

“I got into it because a buddy of mine got into it,” he said. “I enjoyed working with them, and I know that I am going to miss it.”

“We’ve had some good times. We’ve had some bad times,” he said.

During those 37 years with the FHP, Sonny became the first auxiliary trooper to ever be awarded Trooper of the Year. He was awarded Trooper of the Year a second time, and was also awarded the highway patrol’s Medal of Valor.

His first Trooper of Year award and the Medal of Valor were awarded after he and fellow trooper Johnny Freeman rescued two teenage boys from drowning in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sonny remembers that day in 1996 like it was yesterday.

“We happened to be down there talking to a ranger (near the Gulf) on Johnson Beach Road,” he said. “Then there was a call on the radio that kids were drowning in the Gulf behind the condo we happened to be at. They were being pulled out by the undertow.”

“We knew we had to do something,” he said. He had never been trained in water rescue. But off came the gun belt and other equipment, and into the waters of the Gulf he and Freeman went, pulling the boys to safety. “They were just so young, like 13 or 14.”

The two Mississippi boys were visiting with relatives in Pensacola.

Mississippi holds some of Sonny’s worst memories. Prior to joining the FHP Auxiliary, he volunteered for REACT — the Radio Emergency Associated Communication Team. REACT volunteer teams would volunteer to assist with various emergencies.

Sonny’s REACT team was sent to Biloxi after Hurricane Camille. Their job was going to be simple…assist victims in contacting their families across the country to let them know that they were okay using HAM radios.

“It was terrible.”

He sat quiet for a moment.

“It was terrible; it was a mess,” he said. “There were 20 something bodies floating. They had a hurricane party. None of them had survived.”

“There was this lady. There was this lady. Her trailer was gone, but the railing on her steps was still there. She was still holding onto the railing. She had drowned. She had drowned holding onto that railing. She was just there, still holding on.”

Not all of the memories are bad. Well, at least not bad in the same way as the Camille story.

It was 1994. The scene was an ordinary day, on patrol in an Escambia County neighborhood. A lady flagged them down on a residential street.

“My daughter is having a baby in the bathroom,” she told Sonny.

“I’d rather have worked an armed robbery,” he said.

Sonny delivered the baby in the bathroom of the home before the fire department and ambulance personnel arrived. The cord was tied off with a hair clip. The baby did not breathe at first. Mouth cleaned out. Nothing. Patted on the rear. Nothing. Held upside down and patted on the feet. Crying. “That was a good moment,” he said.

The baby girl was wrapped in Sonny’s FHP jacket. He met the firemen at the door, baby in hand. “You’re running a little late,” he told them.

There was almost another baby delivery in Sonny’s future. He and his partner had just left Sacred Heart Hospital. They found a van stopped in the street near the hospital, traffic blocked. A lady in labor did not think she was going to make the short distance to the hospital ER.

His partner called the ER and had them on standby.

“We ARE going to make this one,” he told his partner. “We drove her really fast to the ER, and they were standing out there waiting.”

It was a close call. But nothing like one he experienced at a pawn shop on Fairfield Drive.

He and his partner were the first on the scene of a break-in at the pawn shop.

“They were stealing guns. One came out with a shotgun. We told him to drop it. But he didn’t,” Sonny said.

“When you pull the trigger slowly on your gun, there’s like this little click when the hammer pulls back. I keep telling him to drop his weapon. I squeezed the trigger on my gun. I felt the click. At that point, you are so close to firing.”

“Then he dropped the shotgun. I caught the hammer of my weapon with my hand. It was so close. I thanked God that I did not have to shoot anybody.”

“I always wondered what would happen in a situation like that. I never got shook up until after it was over.”

Now that his 37 years of service is over, the 70 year-old looks back fondly on all those years in the auxiliary. He pauses for a moment when asked about the length of time, as if he realizes just how long 37 years is.

“I did a lot of things. A lot of things. It’s been a long time.”

He will turn 71 on Valentine’s Day. Thirty seven years of service to the FHP. That’s over half of his life dedicated to service the citizens of Escambia County in the trooper auxiliary.

But he’s not done with life. In fact, he gets up every weekday morning at about 4:00 and leaves for work in Pensacola before 5:00. That’s right…work.

He works weekdays from 6:00 until 2:30 at Pensacola Glass Company, mostly running deliveries.

And by the way…he’s not driving what’s typically thought of as an older person’s vehicle. No big car for Sonny. Weather permitting, he rides a motorcycle to and from work in Pensacola.

He plans a little cross country motorcycle trip to see a daughter in California later this year. He plans to work on his house, plans to add a bull to his pasture, and just plans to enjoy living in Walnut Hill.

“It so peaceful here,” he said. “I love it up here out of the hustle and bustle of Pensacola. Everybody is so nice here.”

“I may be retired, but if anybody in this community needs me, all they have to do is ask and I’ll be there to help them.”

Thirty seven years of community service. And still counting.


Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.