North Fork Profiles

Greenport volunteer firefighter celebrates 50 years of service

Joe Barszcewski

Hanging above Joe’s Farm Stand on Albertson Lane in Greenport are two white boards listing the prices of vegetables at the self-serve operation. Hidden in the right corner next to the boards, however, is a battered sign that doesn’t fit in with the others.

The small sign reads, “Home of a proud volunteer, join today,” and has the fire department and emergency medical services logo on it.

Joe Barszczewski, the farm stand’s owner, is just that. And last week, he was honored for 50 years of dedicated service to the Greenport Fire Department.

“I have my own motto that is ‘Always do what you can, when you can,’ ” said Bill Bogardus, a member of the fire department since 2000. “To volunteer for over 50 years, he’s certainly done his share and more.”

Born and raised in Greenport, Mr. Barszczewski, 78, said he joined the fire department after moving back to his hometown as a way to reconnect with friends who were already members.

Since then, he has moved through the ranks to lieutenant and captain and is currently one of Star Hose Co. 3’s two wardens, a position he’s held for more than 20 years.

“I get involved more than I probably should,” he said. “But I feel like I’m the type of person where, if you belong to something, you either be a part of it or you get out.”

Mr. Barszczewski still answers as many calls as possible, no matter the time, and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. He said the department doesn’t receive a lot of serious calls, which affords members time to socialize.

This camaraderie is what Mr. Barszczewski enjoys most about being a member, he said. It’s also what makes one particular call toward the beginning of his volunteer service that much more difficult to get over.

“That was probably the hardest thing I went through, when the two youngsters got killed in a fire in [1977],” he said. “Richie [Syzc] and Bruce [Bellefontaine], they passed away and I was on that alarm. It wasn’t a nice thing.”

To commemorate his 50 years of service to the Greenport community, Mr. Barszczewski was honored Aug. 8 at Star Hose Co. 3’s monthly meeting, where he received proclamations from village, town, county and state officials.

His wife, and some of his children and grandchildren, surprised him by sneaking into the meeting and attending the event.

“You know it’s going to happen because of all the people ahead of me,” Mr. Barszczewski said of the recognition. “But that particular night, I didn’t expect it. It was nice.”

Mr. Bogardus said it isn’t unusual for someone to spend 50 years as a volunteer firefighter, but it’s more uncommon to spend five decades with the same department.

“If you’re going to be a 50-year member, you’re a true-blue, gung-ho volunteer and that’s relatively uncommon in these days, because usually everybody’s out there trying to make a living for themselves,” Mr. Bogardus said. “How many people drop everything to go answer a fire call? When you’ve done 50 years, you know you got someone dedicated to serving the community.”

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Photo: Joe Barszczewski (right) holds proclamations from officials in the village, town, county and state for his 50 years of continuous service to Greenport Fire Department. Assistant chief Susano Jimenez presented the awards. (Credit: Bill Bogardus)