Fire-fighting EMT has unique knack for fund-raising cakes

DAGSBORO — There are certain occasions in the fire service world when even a devoted and dedicated member does not respond to an alarm.

For Diane Carey, an alarming decision came on the day she became the wife of Ronn Carey.

“During my wedding, when I got married to Ronn, they had a big mill fire over in Gumboro. The sawmill caught fire.  That was in the middle of our wedding,” said Ms. Carey. “I missed that one. It was a good reason.”

               Diane Carey

Interestingly, fire service was part of their wedding procession.

“We actually used the fire truck as our limo — as our limousine. It carried Ron and his groomsmen to the church and then picked me up and took me to the church,” she said.

Born and raised in Sussex County, Ms. Carey grew up in the Millville area. She graduated from Indian River High School, a member of the IRHS Class of 1974.

After high school graduation, Ms. Carey attended Delaware Tech. There she earned an associate degree in nursing.

Ms. Carey, who recently turned 62, is a 25-year member of the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department. She is a firefighter/NR-EMT, which stands for Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician.

“I recently got a certificate from them for 25 years of continuous certification,” said Ms. Carey.

She also serves the secretary for the fire department.

Sometimes during emergencies, the fire station is their home away from home.

“We’ve spent some nights there, during snowstorms …,” said Ms. Carey.

She is employed as a critical care transport nurse for Hart to Heart Transportation.

Besides being a firefighter/NR-EMT, she has a home-made culinary talent. Her cake-baking has fueled fundraising for several worthy causes.

Last year, she made a huge cake for Pullin’, Peelin’ & Pickin’ — a mega-event supporting the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department and the Good Ole Boy Foundation. Her creation was named Bucky the Beaver. Bucky was such a hot auction item he was and resold several times, fetching a grand total of $2,300.

“And I did the one for the Clayton Theatre. And I did one for Frankford Fire Hall,” said Ms. Carey. “I have done several interesting auction items that have all done well.”

Her husband is employed as an electrician for Sussex County. He is also a past chief of the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department.

Ms. Carey’s daughter, Jaime Swartz, is a teacher at John M. Clayton Elementary in Frankford.

She has a 10-year-old grand-daughter, Alison Swartz, who attends the Southern Delaware School of the Arts in Selbyville.

In this week’s People to Meet spotlight: Diane Carey.

What did you aspire to be growing up?

“I wanted to be a nurse, but it took me a long time to get there. I didn’t go to nursing school until I was about 40 years. But, I got there.”

First taste of employment?

“I was 14 when I started working at the Beach Treat in Bethany Beach. It was a little seasonal hamburger joint: hamburgers, ice cream and French fries. Then I got married, first time, I worked for the chicken plant. I worked for Showell Poultry and then I worked for Allen Family Foods.”

When and why did you join the fire service?

“I joined the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department in 1993. That was after my father and my mother had both been in the Millville Fire Company.”

“I was in his hospital room and saw an ad in the paper that Dagsboro was looking for people to take the ambulance course. So, I was at home and stuff during the day and I thought, ‘Well, you know I could do that.’ So, I called. They signed me up. And I went off to school to become an ambulance attendant at that time. It wasn’t even an EMT yet; it was an ambulance attendant.”

That led to family ties?

“That is where I met my husband, when I joined the fire department. I took fire school with a very nice young man; his name was Aaron Swartz. And he ended up marrying my daughter!”

Your passion to serve?

“I have always liked helping people. I watched my father, he rode the ambulance and the fire trucks and all in Millville. I remember seeing him and looked up to him. I wanted to help.”

“My daughter had a seizure when she was young, and a lady helped her with CPR. She is now fine, thanks to that lady. And I made a vow that I would take CPR. And CPR led to the First Aid class, which led to another class, which led to EMT school, which led to nursing school.”

“I not too long ago received a Phoenix Award from the paramedics. That was myself and my partner, Gary Cox for having a CPR call where the patient actually revived and walked out of the hospital. So, I did manage to give back that nice deed she did for me.”

Diane Carey with her mega-cake creation: Bucky the Beaver, a huge hit at last year’s Pullin’, Peelin’ & Pickin’ fundraiser.

OK, how about the legend of Bucky the Beaver?

“I just enjoy doing things that are a little bit different. I don’t like to do just a plain birthday cake. I like to do something different.”

“When they called me a few years ago and asked me if I could make a beaver cake — after everybody got done with their little side jokes — I said, ‘Well, I probably could.’ So, I set out to make the beaver cake. The first year Bucky jumped off his tray the morning of the event. So, he never made it to the event. They had a poster of him that we auctioned off. We raised $100 on the poster; the cake went in the trash.”

“The second year I was in Florida and a lady tried to make a smaller version of Bucky. And hers fell over.”

“So last year Bucky made it to fruition. And with the help of Hocker’s, because they let me use their bakery to put him together, he just came about. I have never had any lessons. It’s all just kind of trial and error and self-taught.”

What else occupies your time?

“I go with my grand-daughter and support her between Girl Scouts and the Alley Cats Dance Troupe. That takes up most of my spare time along with my husband’s racing career. He is a drag racer and races locally at Delmar. There are national bracket finals and stuff that we attend. That pretty well keeps me busy, that and work.”

“Then, in my spare I am co-chairing the 75th anniversary of our fire department, which is in March. We are celebrating it on the April 14, with a parade and a lot of fire and EMS-related exhibits and hands-on events. The culmination of the day will be a vehicle rescue drill. It will be narrated … we are hoping to have everybody, paramedics and everyone that participates there.”

Bucky the Beaver high bidders at the 2017 Pullin’, Peelin’ & Pickin’ event: Billy Reese, Ezra Rickard, Randy Campbell, Diane Carey (who made the cake), Jim Weller, Mary Kendall and Fred West.

Closing thoughts?

“I encourage everyone to come out and check out our event (Pullin’, Peelin’ & Pickin’ March 3 at the Dagsboro Fire Station 73) and help the Good Ole Boys and the fire department.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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