On February 15, 2020, four hundred friends, coworkers, and family gathered at the gorgeous Loews Hotel at Hollywood and Highland to honor retired Assistant Chief Roy Harvey. This celebration was not the usual retirement dinner. It had a feel of significance as we bid farewell to a living legend on the LAFD. It was fitting that after 42 years of service, the 2010 “Firefighter of the Year”, 2019 “Valor Award Lifetime Achievement Award” winner, and 2017 Southern California Handball Association “Hall of Fame” inductee would draw a diverse crowd to help celebrate the end of an outstanding career.
The tone for the evening was set during the social hour where playful banter and war stories filled the room. It was a great reunion of members and families from past assignments, with strong representation from Fire Stations 64 and 92 and every other assignment that Roy worked. There was representation from all 5 decades that Harvey’s career encompassed. Roy attempted to welcome all arrivals by posing for photos for well over an hour, with a line that was often 20 people deep.
The best Master of Ceremonies in the business, Deputy Chief Armando Hogan (OWB) kept the evening moving along with raucous jabs and interesting stories. Retired Captain Jeremiah “Jaybo” Johnson one of Roy’s oldest friends came in from Arizona to deliver a wonderful benediction, which set the tone for the evening. There were shots fired between L.A. City FC Ralph Terrazas and L.A. County FC Darryl Osby, which drew quite a few laughs. Osby may have won that round!
Retired Assistant Chief Kwame Cooper, spoke of the Excel Study Program that Roy established in 1993, which laid the groundwork for hundreds of African Americans and other underrepresented groups to become Captains and Chief Officers. His contribution may have changed the face of the Department in the officer ranks for decades to come.
Honored guests at the head table where Robert E. Osby (Retired Fire Chief of Inglewood, San Jose, San Diego and Oceanside Fire Departments), who Roy considers his most influential fire service role model. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas presented the Retirement Certificate, Fire Marshal, Deputy Chief Kristin Crowley, who was Harvey’s last supervisor/partner while leading the Fire Prevention Bureau for the past three years presented a special award from the FPB. Deputy Chief Armando Hogan, who was among the many Captain I’s to pass through FS-64, provided just the right amount of facts to put his career in context. Retired Captain Bassanio Peters best known as Roy’s partner in crime, presented him with the Retirement Badge, and Retired Captain Gregory King who was his mentor during his early years on the job provided heartfelt comments. The war stories, countless quotable quotes by some of the most influential leaders in the fire service, both old and new were heartfelt and well deserved.
Of course, there was a peanut gallery that provided the right mix of cheers and jeers from the likes of Vinnie Jenkins, Bubba Willis, John Libby, Kevin Schilling, Eric Strode and the usual cast of characters. The barbs were sharp and constant, but all in good fun. Most notable were the incredibly well stated words of gratitude, inspiration, and wisdom which freely flowed from the illustrious speakers. Everyone was on their “A” game and offered thoughtful and clever speeches to honor Roy’s service and impact. Retired Interim Fire Chief James Featherstone delivered the best shot of the night, when he told the audience that he was coming straight from Kwame Cooper’s Dinner that started last May.
John Libby was the speaker who represented the handball community. Roy was the Commissioner of LAFD Handball from 2009-2013, and LAFD Handball was awarded the United States Handball Association “Organization of the Year” in 2011 for their community outreach and leadership. There where both LAFD and civilian handballers in attendance, who presented one of the nicest plaques of the evening.
Noteworthy gifts where a hand painted helmet by renowned Artist Rosie Tos! A grapevine cover from Retired Editor Dave Wagner, who coincidentally was Roy’s last Captain before he promoted to Captain in 1988. A Captain’s helmet signed by all of the Captain I’s who passed through FS-64, and awards from the Stentorians and Chief Officers Association. Kevin Johnson, who worked with Roy for 7 years at FS-64, as his EIT in Battalion 13 and again in Recruit Training presented a set of custom-made Dominoes with the Lakers logo and R. Harvey engraved on each one, rumor has it that there were a lot of games on those long Battalion 13 nights.
Some highlights from the open mic segment included comments from Geary Souder, one of Roy’s Drill Tower Classmates who spoke of the then 18-year old Roy (number one in his Drill Tower Class) joining in solidarity with other struggling recruits to protest and speak out against the bias and unfair treatment they were forced to endure while in the Academy. Even then he was determined to leave it better than the way he found it. Carol Harvey (mother) spoke of her young son’s entrepreneurial spirit and youthful exuberance. Her doting pride was evident as she recalled her son’s reassuring words as he purchased a 5-unit building, while still under the legal drinking age. His daughters Melissa and Vanessa spoke of their father as a true “girldad.” Finally, Mrs. Daphne Harvey, the epitome of beauty and class affectionately referred to her husband as “Mr. Harvey” painted the picture of Roy’s less than subtle attempt at asking her out for a date. Her words were another highlight, as she recalled the guy who wouldn’t leave her alone. Roy just shrugged and said, “it worked,” to which she smiled and nodded with a grin.
Once introduced, Roy started his speech by quoting Jay Z (a first at a Retirement Dinner) “Thank you all for coming! You could have been anywhere in the world tonight, but you are here with me and I appreciate that!” In the most casual and humble way possible, Roy thanked the committee, his mother and father, his wife and children, those who have passed away, those who led the way, those who fought beside him, and those whom he has charged with gathering up the baton and continuing to charge forward. He left no stone unturned. Those fortunate enough to hear their names were visibly touched and many were moved to tears. His speech was a master’s class in leadership and empowerment. That’s Roy’s super power, he makes everyone feel capable of moving mountains.
By James P. Hayden