Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017

Comer selected as grand marshal

Jan Comer.jpg
Jan Comer is the grand marshall of the 2014 Milk Days parade.

Jan Comer would have been satisfied with cake and ice cream when she retires from the Harvard Rescue Squad next month. Instead, she’ll be honored as the grand marshal of the Harvard Milk Days Parade.

“I feel very honored,” said Comer, who was born and raised in Harvard and, in 1978, was the first female to join the Harvard Rescue Squad. She later joined the Hebron Rescue Squad in 1993.

Now 75, Comer said the time has come to hang up her turnout gear.

“My body is telling me enough is enough,” Comer said.

When she first joined the rescue squad, Comer said her father, Wayne Nolan, was a rural fireman in the city.

“All the guys were always good to me,” she said. Between her father being a fireman and her experience as a nurse’s assistant at Harvard Hospital, the respect was easy to earn, Comer said. She noted that before joining the squad, she performed CPR on a person involved in a bad accident near her home before emergency personnel could arrive.

During a time when her daughter also worked at the department, Comer picked up the nickname “Ma.” It’s a nickname she gladly accepted and said that type of camaraderie is what she’ll miss most after she retires.

“That and helping people in the community,” she said. “That’s really why we do it.”

Comer said medical advances and an increase to the town’s population have been the biggest changes for her job and the community since she first started her work, but she said the job and the city have always provided a foundation for her life. “It’s really been my whole life,” she said. “It’s what I know.”

In addition to her job on the rescue squads, Comer has owned the Rummage Room on Ayer Street for “the past 17 or 18 years.”

“I lose track,” Comer said, laughing. “That’s what happens when you’ve been [doing it so long].”

Comer grew up on a dairy farm and attended St. Joseph School and Harvard High School. She said she never dreamed that one day she would take center stage during the town’s largest annual event.

“One of the members of the [Milk Days] board asked me [to be the grand marshal]. I told her I had to think about it,” Comer said. “I figured, what does it entail? All I’ll have to do is sit in a car and wave to people.”

The Harvard Milk Days parade will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 7.