Annual appreciation lunch at senior community honors Anaheim police, firefighters, EMTs
Retired Anaheim Police Chief Jimmie Kennedy is very familiar with the great work first responders do daily – and not just because of his long career in law enforcement.
Kennedy, who was APD chief from 1982-1987 and also served as interim APD chief from 1993-1994, is a resident of Walnut Village, an upscale continuing care retirement community in Anaheim.
On Sept. 7, Kennedy, 83, felt unusual pain in his shoulders and back.
He summoned members of Walnut Village’s in-house nursing staff to his home. They then called for an ambulance.
Kennedy had suffered a mild heart attack, and was whisked away to a hospital where he had a stent inserted in a coronary artery.
“I’m feeling fine now,” said Kennedy, one of the hosts on Monday, Sept. 17 of Walnut Village’s annual appreciation lunch for police officers, firefighters and EMTs who serve Anaheim.
“This day is all about honoring first responders,” said Kennedy, who moved to Walnut Village 8 ½ years ago. “We use them a lot around here.”
For the seventh year in a row, Walnut Village treated first responders to a free all-American lunch of hamburgers, barbecue chicken, hot dogs, chili, corn on the cob, a full salad bar, chocolate cake with strawberries, and candy bars.
The event normally is held on Sept. 11 to also pay homage to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks, but a scheduling conflict this year bumped it back a week.
Kennedy and retired APD Captain Dick Gray, another Walnut Village resident, greeted guests at Monday’s event.
More than 100 guests, including APD Chief Jorge Cisneros and Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman, streamed in between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to dine in The Grove, a fancy dining room usually only open to residents for dinner.
Several attendees took back with them takeout lunches for colleagues who couldn’t make it.
Judi Marsh, Walnut Village’s director of life enrichment, launched the annual event in 2012 with the help of Kennedy.
Walnut Village, which has more than 200 residents, paid for the food and treats.
“So often when EMTs and other first responders come here, they don’t often hear ‘thank you,’ and this is our way of saying that,” Marsh said.
Sam Han, director of dining services at Walnut Village, hugged his brother, APD Sgt. Phillip Han, when the latter showed up. Another brother, Daniel, is a firefighter with the Los Angeles Fire Department.
“We want to stay engaged with our community,” Sam Han said, “and thank all the men and women who serve us.”
APD Burglary/Auto Theft Det. Dave Hermann showed up at the luncheon.
“I think it’s really cool they offer us lunch for us just doing our jobs,” Hermann said.
Said Anaheim Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Pat Russell with a smile: “The food was pretty good. Fire station food is pretty good, too.”
Nadine Roisman, executive director of Walnut Village, which houses a 99-bed skilled nursing facility and a memory care center, said her community loves to host the event “because we really appreciate what (first responders) do to keep our community safe.”
Don Baldwin has been an RSVP (retired senior volunteer patrol) for the APD for 20 years, during which he has racked up more than 5,000 hours.
He’s also a nine-month resident of Walnut Village.
“We should never forget what happened (on 9/11),” said Baldwin, a native of Syracuse, N.Y. and World War II veteran who served as an Army infantryman in Italy in 1945-46.
Baldwin enjoyed a hamburger and barbecue chicken — and more.
“The best thing of all was the watermelon,” he said.
Sgt. Rodney Duckwitz looked pleased as he headed back to work.
“It’s very generous and kind,” he said of Walnut Village residents and staff members. “We appreciate their support.”