For nearly 40 years, Autry Cheatham has spent his career extinguishing fires, extricating people from vehicles and responding to life-threatening situations from Phoenix to Surprise.
On July 5, Cheatham officially retires from the city of Surprise Fire Department as a battalion chief.
“He’s been a really strong leader and mentor in the department and friend. We will certainly miss him,” said Surprise Fire-Medical Department Battalion Chief/Public Information Officer Julie Moore, describing a “really cool ceremony” held June 28.
A formal presentation and party was at Surprise Fire-Medical Station 305, 15517 N. Parkview Place, in Surprise, where Cheatham received well-wishes on his upcoming retirement and gifts for his many years of service.
His gifts consisted of a plaque, and a brass bugle, which is nearly one-foot-tall, among other awards.
“I appreciate their appreciation for the work that I have done,” said Cheatham, surrounded by his family, friends and colleagues. “The biggest key to success in life is teamwork. You have to have the support of the guys around you and I’ve been blessed with those guys being friends and family.”
Acknowledging accolades from the department and his peers, the Arizona native who grew up in south Phoenix, said he plans to spend a lot of time with his family, which includes four children and eight grandchildren.
Besides making family time, during retirement, he will also teach the Fire 1 and Fire 2 programs at Glendale Community College, devising curriculum and instructing on skill sets to help prepare budding fire fighters on passing state certifications.
“It’s worth the effort to get hired within the fire service,” added Cheatham, an Avondale resident.
Cheatham, who spent “39 years and some change” in fire service, said he always knew he wanted to be a fireman since he was younger.
“From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a firefighter,” Cheatham said.
He has worked in various capacities within the fire department since he started. He served for 20 years with the Phoenix Fire Department, before he joined the city of Surprise Fire Department in 2006.
Also, Cheatham’s family has a propensity for public service as he has a brother who was hired by the fire department five years before he began his long-standing career, he noted.
His relatives devoted to public service include Simeon Cheatham, who served as a Goodyear Fire captain, Frank Cheatham, a retired Phoenix Fire deputy, Wade Cheatham, a city of Phoenix Police officer, and others.
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