Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Lifetime achievement


Not all superheroes need capes.

But they must have the eyes of an eagle and a heart for helping others. A woman from Round Island was recently lauded for making use of these qualities earlier this year to save a man from drowning.

On June 2, Sarah E. Gillette saw a man struggling to keep his head above water in the St. Lawrence River. Terence J. Brennan, a 53-year-old resident of Camillus, was knocked into the water when a wave hit his 17-foot boat off the shore of Round Island.

Mrs. Gillette, 65, heard Mr. Brennan calling out for help. So she climbed in her boat and began searching for him.

For her actions, Mrs. Gillette received two awards during a ceremony this week at Keewaydin State Park in Alexandria Bay. She was awarded the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators’ Award of Commendation and the Recreational Boating Life Saving Award from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Marine Services Bureau.

“Only six other New York boaters have received the national award since its inception in 2008. It is given to someone who has exhibited heroism and faced risks to his or her own life when saving another boater,” according to a story on the awards ceremony in Wednesday’s Watertown Daily Times. “The other award recognizes a good Samaritan who comes to the aid of another boater in life-threatening distress and successfully rescues him or her.”

Mrs. Gillette pointed out that she was not the only person involved in Mr. Brennan’s rescue. She said that about 25 people took part in the search, including her husband, Paul F. Gillette. She and her husband jumped into separate boats and began looking for Mr. Brennan.

“Using the 19-foot Triumph’s platform and swim ladder, [Mrs. Gillette] pulled the barely conscious man to safety, she recalled,” according to the Watertown Daily Times story. “Before that, he swam a good 1,000 feet from where he fell and was in the water for about 30 minutes before she found him, she said.”

Mr. Brennan is very fortunate that so many residents were willing to engage in a search for him. Following the rescue, he was charged with boating while intoxicated. This story could have ended tragically were it not for the quick actions of Mrs. Gillette and the others on Round Island that day.

Mrs. Gillette stressed the importance of learning how to operate a boat safely, and it’s obvious why she believes this. She received her boating license when she was 12 years old. Her experience made a real difference.

We frequently hear about public safety professionals receiving awards for saving the lives of others. These are wonderful stories, reminding us that first-responders are on the job 24 hours a day ensuring our well-being.

But it’s also very gratifying to learn about the heroic actions of residents like Mrs. Gillette and her Round Island neighbors. They truly exemplify what it means to be part of a community and what its members can accomplish when the need arises.

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