The Chief Donnie Pickard Legacy Fund
Chief Donnie Pickard built a statewide reputation during his 38 years as a firefighter in Ovilla, where he started as a volunteer. He shared the firefighting knowledge he learned over the years with departments across the state as a trainer and leader.
He served as chairman of the certification board of the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas and was an instructor at the Municipal Fire School in College Station.
Donnie’s father, Wilson Pickard, was part of the formation of the Ovilla Community Center in 1936. It was formed as part of a water system and water co op. In 1990, Donnie discovered that his aging father had let the Board slip away and the not for profit status of the Community Center was in jeopardy. At his insistence, the Board was refreshed and all paperwork completed to keep the not for profit building and grounds in good legal standing. His father, who had inherited most of the upkeep of the building was becoming less able physically to do too much, so Donnie gradually assumed the management of the building and grounds. In 1996, with the death of his Mother, he suddenly realized that he was solely responsible. It became a family effort, with Donnie and Karen doing the scheduling for events, the mowing, housekeeping, all of those things that go with maintaining a public building. That process continued until Donnie became ill in 2011.
He became critically ill very quickly, and it because important for Karen to start asking him what to do about things such as this. We had property to maintain for rental purposes as well as the Community Center. His response to the rental property was to sell it, in some cases donate it, and in the case of the Community Center, he wanted to sell it, and donate the money to the Fallen Firefighters Task Force. If Donnie would have had truly what he wanted, it would be to give all of the money from the sale of all of our properties to the Task Force, but the Community Center was especially what he wanted. He had been impressed by Wendy Norris and the effort that she was making across the State, and saw no greater need than to serve the families of those lost, and to honor their memory. It is because of this passion of Donnie’s that the funds from the sale of the Ovilla Community Center were awarded to the Task Force in March of 2014.
Born in Waxahachie, Chief Pickard lived his entire life in Ovilla, where his father, Wilson Pickard, founded a grocery store in 1944 and was the first mayor elected after the town incorporated in 1963.
Chief Pickard became a volunteer firefighter shortly after he graduated from Midlothian High School in 1974. His firefighting experiences, however, started much earlier, said his wife, Karen Pickard of Ovilla.
“The older men in town had a fire brigade,” Ms. Pickard said. “They ran an old truck with a wood, flat bottom. Donnie started riding with his dad when he was just a little kid.”
He was named chief of the Ovilla Fire Department in 1986 and became its first full-time employee in April 2000.
Despite beginning as a volunteer with a small fire department, Chief Pickard became master-level, certified firefighter, progressing through numerous levels of certification. As he rose through the ranks, he served on the certification board of the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas, where he later became chairman.
Chief Pickard revamped the association’s certification program and made it available to volunteers, enabling them to learn on their own time without having to take time off to attend an academy, said Chris Barron, executive director of the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas. He is also also chief of the Manchaca Fire Department, south of Austin.
We are incredibly honored to have a part of Chief Pickard’s legacy passed down to the Texas Line of Duty Death Task Force. He was an incredible man and firefighter. It is because of this donation that the organization is able to function on a month by month basis.