The first thing one notices about Herb and Joyce Jackson is their love and affection for each other. They look laughingly into each other’s eyes. Joyce reaches out to touch her husband’s knee and Herb pulls her in for a tight hug.
But when they start talking, what stands out is their absolute humility. Between the two of them, the Jacksons have accumulated 108 years of volunteer service on the Ballston Lake Fire Department and Ballston Lake Ambulance Corp.
“It’s just something we do,” they both said almost simultaneously.
“It brings us closer,” said Herb. “It has always been a part of our life.”
The Jacksons are in their 70s but are still full of energy. They have to be, given their credentials. Herb has been an active firefighter in the Ballston Lake Fire Department for over 50 years. He has also put in more than 26 years in the Ballston Lake Ambulance Corp. Joyce has been in the ambulance corp for 32 years herself.
During that time, Joyce has held the following positions: past president, vice president, secretary and she is currently the treasurer and a board member. She has been in charge of crew scheduling and has received the “Responding to over 100 calls a year” pin several times and the President’s Award a few times.
Working for the fire department, Herb has held the following positions: lieutenant, captain and assistant chief. He was president for 13 years and received numerous awards for Most Alarms and Most Drills over the years. He also received the 50 years of Active Service award, Firefighter of the Year award twice over and the Honor, Integrity and Service award. He is currently the longest active member of the BLFD. The Jacksons were also honored by the Ballston Town Board on Tuesday, Feb. 12, with a resolution recognizing their service.
But the couple wasn’t happy with just volunteering. Both of them were responsible for initiating programs in both the BLAC and BLFD. Joyce headed a committee that initiated the First Response Vehicle that was donated by Terry Morris from Morris Ford.
Herb was in charge of the feasibility, placement and oversaw the construction of the current emergency squad building, which was built in 1995.
“We did it on a budget of $300,000,” he said. “No one thought we could do it, but we got it done with help from the community.”
Herb joined the fire department at age 18, but left briefly for a few months when his family moved, but then came right back.
“I couldn’t stay away, I guess,” he said.
Joyce joined the ambulance squad after she had married Herb and saw several accidents that left her feeling helpless because she couldn’t do anything to help.
Herb is a lifelong resident of Ballston Lake and Joyce has lived there since she was 7. They even lived on the same street at one point. But they laughed when asked how they fell in love.
“I’ve always loved her,” said Herb, “but she wouldn’t have anything to do with me in high school.”
It wasn’t until Herb came back and saw Joyce one day while he was driving one of the fire trucks.
“I hit the air horn to scare her and she jumped about 5 feet in the air,” he laughed. “I’m not giving her away now. I’ve had too much trouble training her!”
Both said volunteering is its own reward because of all the friends they have made over the years and the camaraderie they share.
“It is something we do for the community,” said Joyce. “When those sirens go off, everything else is on hold.”
Along those lines, they both wish more people would volunteer.
“It is a big problem today,” said Herb. “People don’t have the time anymore. It was different years ago. Years ago the fire department was the nucleus of the community. It’s not a little community anymore.”
“It’s a matter of getting people interested,” she said. “People don’t think about it and don’t realize who that person was who just saved their life.”
Joyce added the ambulance squad even pays for training, which is around $6,600 per person, in exchange for the volunteer giving two years of service.
“That’s all we ask for,” she said.
The couple also pointed out that Saratoga County was the last county in the state with ambulance corps that are made up entirely by volunteers.
“There is a pride in knowing that,” said Herb.