Organizers ostensibly billed their June 29 event as an open house to highlight services offered by and renovations to the Bono Volunteer Fire Department. The open house went as planned, with the addition of a surprise aspect known to everybody but Fire Chief Ralph Vaquera.
“I got there and there were a lot of people, people from the department and other departments around,” Vaquera said. “But there were a lot of my kinfolks there too, and I was thinking what are they doing here? How the hell did they know about our open house? But I just thought maybe my wife told them about it or something.
“There was even an old high school buddy I hadn’t seen in 42, 43 years. He told me at first he’d seen the open house announcement on Bono’s Facebook page.”
Bono firefighters and board members did want to hold an open house for the community, but they also wanted surprise Vaquera and honor his 30 years of service with the department.
Cleburne Assistant Fire Chief Keith Scarbrough — who served as a BVFD volunteer before hiring on at CFD, and still runs calls with the department in his free time — was among the 150 or so attendees that night, and in on the secret.
“It’s funny,” Scarbrough said. “We showed Ralph the invitations for the open house for him to approve. What we didn’t show him is that we put another card in with the regular invitations we sent out. That card said, ‘Shhh. This is a surprise party for Ralph’s 30th anniversary.’”
Scarbrough said Bono firefighters began planning the surprise about six weeks beforehand.
“We all got a kick out of this,” BVFD Assistant Chief Eddie Pahl said. “The board had pushed for holding the open house and Ralph was up at the station every day about a week before cleaning up and getting everything ready for that. We were all trying not to laugh because basically he was getting everything ready for his own party, but we couldn’t tell him that.”