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Tyler is state volunteer of year

By By LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
Everyone is aware of how much volunteers contribute to a community. One of the best examples has been the influx of volunteers to help Brewton and the surrounding area in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.
Some volunteers have been quietly working for many years and most never get the recognition they deserve.
One exception is the naming of Appleton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Michael Tyler as not only the Escambia County Volunteer Firefighter of the Year, but also the Alabama Volunteer Firefighter of the Year.
During his years in the military Tyler began doing volunteer work. He was president of the booster club, chairperson for the enlisted advisory council, involved in special Olympics and was on the board of directors of the Mississippi Society of Retarded Citizens. It was only natural that he would get involved with some sort of volunteer work when he moved to Brewton and that just happened to be the fire department.
He began with the fire department just to help get records straight and slowly found himself more and more involved. He became the secretary and last year was voted to become the chief. Since that time he has gotten the paperwork together and written several grant applications that have been approved. The department had not been inspected since it opened so he requested an inspection by an a special inspection service. The inspection rates are on a scale up to 10 and the department was revised from a nine to a seven which means, among other things, insurance costs will be much lower. This is an important fact when one considers that there is very little money coming in to a volunteer fire department. The state had been giving them an amount, but that income has disappeared with new state laws. The department at Appleton operates with 18 to 20 volunteers.
Each department may nominate a person that it feels has done a lot for the department to be the firefighter for the county, and then the process is repeated on a state level to become state firefighter. The nomination process includes a list of how many fires attended, amount of training, how many grants obtained and just how involved with the department. Normally, the department has many fund raisers to help raise money to support them, but with the extra training and then Ivan, there has not been time to do very many lately.
Tyler was born in Charlotte, N.C., and moved at an early age to Jackson, Miss., because of his father's insurance business. He attended schools in Jackson, dropping out before he was to graduate. He did eventually earn his diploma by taking the GED test when he was 21 years old.
He was married at the age of 19 and realized he didn't want to work at the kind of job he could get without a good education. He studied for and took the GED and then joined the U.S. Air Force when he was 23 years old. He chose to work in the field of electronics as it seemed to be an up and coming field at that time. He worked in radar maintenance and became qualified in that field.
This is the type of work Tyler did for about eight years. He said that computers were very different when he started working with them. He was first stationed in Hawthorne, Nev., which was a very small town but it had a very large ammunition depot.
He then went to Keesler Air Force Base at Biloxi, Miss., where he became a teacher. He enrolled in the Community College of the Air Force and received his associate's degree. He became a master instructor and taught students from all over the world and did a lot of traveling from place to place to teach.
By this time he was the father of three, a daughter, Christina and two sons, John and David. He was sent to the Philippines and the family went with him. They stayed about for over a year before the family returned to the states and he finished his two year tour by himself. After that time he was sent back to Keesler where he finished his military career and retired in 1994.
He and his first wife had divorced and he was living off base with his children when he met his present wife, Ginny. His best friend was married to Ginny's daughter, Jill. Tyler's daughter, Christina, gave a baby shower for Jill that was attended by Ginny. The two met and were married bringing her two daughters, Jill and Catina, into the family. Tyler had been a single father since the time his youngest son was 10 and the family moved to Appleton when that son graduated from school. They bought Ginny's parent's home and have been working on it since that time to the present day.
During those years in the military Tyler began doing volunteer work. He was president of the booster club, chairperson for the enlisted advisory council, involved in Special Olympics and was on the board of directors of the Mississippi Society of Retarded Citizens. It was only natural that he would get involved with some sort of volunteer work and that just happened to be the fire department.
People such as Tyler and his wife, who also works with the fire department, are what makes it possible to have the rural fire departments as they are today. They deserve any honors they can get.