by Jennifer Westendorp
Sean Donovan is dedicated to serving his community and country. He put on his first uniform at the age of 13 and, though the clothing has changed, he’s never veered away from his true calling: keeping people safe. Sean is originally from Kingston, but since he never hung out with the Tragically Hip, we’ll jump forward a few years. At the age of 17, he joined the reserves – his eyes set on a military career. In 1987, he moved to Ottawa to study computer engineering and transferred reserve units.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the military,” Sean says. “I joined the cadets at 13, and the moment I put on that uniform, I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
Back in those days, there was a waiting list to get on with the regular forces, so Sean stuck it out with the reserves – doing call outs, and running basic training for his unit.
“That’s where I met my wife,” he explains. “She’s a manager for a healthcare clinic, and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever know.”
They have three kids – two daughters and one son – and one granddaughter, age 8. The family lives in Chesterville.
“Our neighbours are great,” he notes. “There’s some retired military people like myself… a mix of younger couples and older couples. It’s a great place to live, and everyone has been very welcoming.”
Sean has travelled all over the world with the military, including the Arctic and Europe.
“I’ve got all my continents covered,” he says. “I was stationed in San Diego for three years, and had the opportunity to deploy.”
By deploy, he means spending 8 months at sea on what they call a big deck, otherwise known as an amphibious warship.
“It’s interesting…definitely a culture shock,” he says of the experience. “The food was very bad.”
Also not ideal was sharing a bathroom with hundreds of people, but Sean survived by working a lot and relying on care packages from home. The ship stopped at ports in Hawaii, Guam, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and Australia, which afforded breaks on land and sight-seeing opportunities. When he got back, his family was waiting for him on the pier.
“It was a long trip and I was very glad to be back.”
The family returned to Canada in 2005, settling in Russell for 15 years before making their final move to Chesterville. Sean retired from the military in 2012, after nearly 25 years of service. His “retirement” consists of working full-time for the federal public service and signing on as a volunteer firefighter for North Dundas.
“I retired from the military on a Friday, and started work on the Monday,” he laughs. “My wife is bugging me to retire-retire, but I don’t think I’ll ever do that. I need to do something to stay sane.”
He joined up with the Morewood Fire Station in 2019, and stayed with them until transferring to the Chesterville Fire Station.
“After leaving the military, I was missing something,” Sean explains. “One day, I was driving by and I saw that they were looking for firefighters, so I stopped in to say hello.”
Right now, he’s working on expanding the fire prevention side of things, and growing community involvement. While the rest of the world was hoarding toilet paper, Sean was going to school online to add to his credentials with a certificate in emergency management.
“I did all that in the hopes of giving back more to the department,” he notes. “North Dundas has a very strong, dedicated group of people here.”