Lt. Mark Beckum received one of the biggest surprises in his life this past weekend.
A fulltime firefighter and first responder, Lt. Beckum was named the 2010 Firefighter of the Year during the annual banquet of the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services, which was held in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church in Thomson last Saturday night.
"This is a great honor," said the 38-year-old Lt. Beckum during a telephone interview with The McDuffie Mirror on Monday night. "It was a big surprise to me when Chief (Bruce) Tanner announced that I was the firefighter of the year. I was real excited about it. It's something I'll never forget."
Lt. Beckum, who along with his family, lives on Old Milledgeville Road near Thomson, said he "deeply appreciated" being recognized for his service to the residents of McDuffie County and others that he comes in contact with on the job.
"It's very rewarding to help people," said Lt. Beckum. "That's the greatest satisfaction about this job. I love doing things to help people."
His wife, Jennifer and the couple's three children, Priscilla, Megan and Preston, all attended the banquet.
"My wife told me she was real proud of me," said Lt. Beckum. "That really meant a lot to me."
The couple has been married for 18 years.
"This employee is well liked and respected by most of his peers," said Chief Tanner prior to announcing to fellow firefighters and guests that Lt. Beckum had been selected as this year's Firefighter of The Year. "He has a work ethic second to none. When a job needs to be done he takes care of it. He has completed his EMT class and continues to work on his National Registry Certification."
Lt. Beckum, who is assigned to Engine Company No. 2 at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport, is a former industrial electrician like his two brothers - Joe and Robert - still are today.
Lt. Beckum followed in the steps of his father, Ray Beckum, a retired firefighter/police officer with the North Augusta, S.C. Department of Public Safety.
"My father worked as a firefighter/police officer for eight years before he retired," said Lt. Beckum.
His parents, Ray and Martha Beckum, live in Dearing.
The elder Mr. Beckum later served as a volunteer firefighter with the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services for 15 years before he retired.
"I guess you could say that firefighting runs in my veins," said Lt. Beckum. "I reckon I get it honest."
At the same time Lt. Beckum was working as an industrial electrician, he was serving as a volunteer with the county fire department. He was a volunteer for 18 years before deciding to quit his electrician job to join the fire department fulltime.
Lt. Beckum joined the county fire department in January 1993. He was hired as a part-time firefighter in 2005 and actually hired fulltime in 2008. In November 2008, he also was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
In his free time, Lt. Beckum enjoys spending time with his family, as well as deer hunting and fishing.