46 years: Thank you Joe
City bids farewell to longtime fireman
ARENAC COUNTY — If you tried to find a model for community dedication, Joseph Jaworski, who passed away at the age of 86 on Feb. 25 would be a good place to start, as his life was one of dedication where he was always ready to lend a helping hand, especially when it involved the Standish Area Fire Authority (SAFA), a department he volunteered on for 46 years.
According to his son, Joseph Jaworski Jr., his father was a “fellow that would help most anyone he could.”
“He just liked the idea of helping people, even if it was just saving part of a house or stopping a fire from spreading from a house to another house,” Joseph Jr. said. “He just felt it was the right thing to do.”
Joseph Sr.’s time serving on the fire department and being a helpful neighbor never really stopped, even in his latter years.
According to Marvin Schwab, a volunteer on the department, after Jospeh Sr. became unable to physically fight fires, he looked for alternative ways to help.
“He would either direct traffic, or be back at the station making everyone a huge lunch for after an afternoon fire, or breakfast in the morning,” he said, adding Joseph Sr. even consulted the department in business meetings the past 10 years.
“The chief would go to the officers first and then would always go to Joe last for words of wisdom…which Joe would then make a wisecrack, if he didn’t have any constructive criticism.”
The department became like a second family to Jaworski in his later years, as his family moved to other areas of Michigan, says SAFA Chief Mitchell Oliver.
“Joe would sit at the station sometimes and when members of the department would see his truck there, they would stop in and chat with him for a while. He was always quick with a smile,” he said. “I think the best story I can remember of Joe is that in his later years he was a big historian. … Anything in Arenac County, he could tell you everything about it. If a building was on fire, he would always be able to tell you what to expect inside or the surroundings we could expect.”
But even if there was no fire to extinguish, Joseph Sr. found ways to make things easier for others.
“When Mitch (Oliver) hurt his back a few months back, Joe rounded up a bunch of guys from the department, even though he could barely walk, and thought that they could help gather some firewood for Mitch. That was Joe. Even though he couldn’t do it himself, he found a way to help out,” Schwab said.
The senior Jaworski had begun to carry that mentality of putting others first early on in life, as he stopped attending school in the fifth grade to help support his family by working at restaurants and later serving his country as a chef in the Marines during World War II, stationed in Kodiak, Alas.
“One of my last conversations with Joe was back in January,” Schwab said. “I’m planning a trip to Alaska this summer and Joe told me about an island near Homer with a Naval base on it. He told me how I could wait until low tide and then go out and pick crabs and shrimp. So, when I go this year, I’m going to pick some crabs and shrimp in honor of him.”
JeanAnn Voss, Jaworski’s daughter, says she remembers growing up that her father always taught his children to be honest and truthful in whatever they did.
“He always seemed to think of others,” Voss said.
Joseph Jr. also shared a memory about growing up around his father and, not surprisingly, it dealt with fighting fires.
“When I was a little kid, there were no pagers,” Jaworski Jr. said. “There was a big siren they blew in town when there was a fire. When it went off, he would get dressed and take off as quick as he could. If I could get dressed in time, I would go with him. With the siren acting as the pagers back then, everyone in town knew there was a fire, so you’d have the fire fighters heading out to the fire and also, you’d have the sight seers. It was quite a parade. And when they eventually got pagers at the department, the sight seers kind of got left out.”
He says, in those days, there were no uniforms or hats; you just went to the fire in normal clothes, even recalling his father would sometimes leave the house in the middle of the night half-dressed.
Joseph Jr. added that one thing his dad never liked about the fire department was using foam.
“He just couldn’t understand why you would use foam to put out a fire when water worked just fine,” Jaworski Jr. said. “He always said water was made to put out fires.
“Some people like to golf or play cards in their spare time. Dad used to spend his free time on the fire department. He grew up during the Great Depression and he wasn’t well off as a child. So he had to make-do a lot with what they had. That followed him his whole life. Anytime anything was broke, it was never worn out. If it could be fixed, he fixed it.”
Voss says her father loved life, never gave up and never abandoned his persevering attitude that made things better for so many people, even when he started experiencing health trouble.
“He needed a new valve in his heart but he was too weak for surgery,” Voss said. “He still tried to live life and just never gave up.”
Jaworski’s full obituary can be seen here