Nearly 60 years after a firefighter rescued a Kannapolis family from its home, he's being recognized for his heroic efforts.
"Certainly an honor I never expected,” that now-former firefighter, John Dayvault, said.
On Dec. 7, 1958, Dayvault rushed into the burning home where Suzanne Dusch and Daly Ward lived. They were just toddlers at the time.
"To be able to say to him how much it meant to us, that's everything," Dusch said.
On Saturday, 59 years after the fire, the brother and sister reunited with Dayvault after asking the nonprofit group Kannapolis History Associates for help finding him.
"We just never dreamed we'd have this opportunity,” Dusch said.
Everyone got out of the burning home safely, except for a 5-year-old, who died.
Dayvault was burned trying to save the 5-year-old.
"This is a story, not so much about a little boy that died, but about a family that lived,” Ward said.
"After all this time, I'd never forgotten them,” Dayvault said.
The family hadn't forgotten Dayvault, either.
As the kids grew older, they say they thought about the brave people who helped them.
Kannapolis leaders recognized Dayvault during the Fire Department's annual open house and firetruck parade.
Dayvault doesn't know if any of the other firefighters from that day in 1958 are still around, but he said he is thankful the family never gave up trying to find him.
"It's really gratifying that they took the effort to find me,” Dayvault said.
Dayvault left his career as a firefighter not long after the fire in 1958.
He's lived in Charlotte for the past 50 years.
Dusch, from near Orlando, Florida, and Ward, from the Columbia, South Carolina, area traveled back to North Carolina to meet Dayvault.