Sunday, August 2, 2015

In 1984 Tonya Perry became the first woman to submit an application to serve as a Troy volunteer firefighter. Tonya’s adopted dad, John Ellis, had served at Station 5. Tonya recalled, “I always remembered seeing his boots and coat in the back seat of the car, ready to go incase of a fire alarm. Dad died when I was twelve and Mom raised six kids alone. When I turned eighteen she signed the papers so that I could join the Army.”

While stationed at Fort Gordon, Tonya was assigned to a detail that assisted a family following a house fire. “I felt so good helping those people,” she said. “I thought this is something I could do. This is something I want to do, and I remembered Dad’s boots. After I was discharged I went into the reserves and moved back to Troy. The first thing I did when I got home was fill out an application for the Fire Department.”

The men at Station 2 accepted Tonya for training and probation. Chief Jim Halsey remarked that he was rather excited about her joining the force. “I’d been surprised for a long time that there had not been other female applicants in Troy, since there are many other female firefighters in the Detroit area.”

Tonya did note that the men did not pamper her. “They weren’t easy on me,” she remembered. “Sometimes they’d tell me to lift a piece of equipment on the truck. They knew it was a two-man job. But I did it.” Ron Marceau, known to all as “Moose,” mentored Tonya, and at the end of her probation, the members of Station 2 voted to accept her as a member. Today Lieutenant Tonya Perry is one of 11 paid professional staff in the Troy Fire Department.

Photo: Tonya Perry in 1995

To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at

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