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Firefighters Mourn Loss of Joseph Pollina

Marine, Boxer, Bocce Ball Player Was

Friend and Mentor to Many  

Ninety years old. That’s a lot of years, but what is really important is the “dash” – what he did in between all those years.

This is some of what I know about Chief Pollina. Actually I got to know Joe a couple of years before I was old enough to join the department. He was a proud U.S. Marine first and foremost. He was one of the members of the “Greatest Generation,” who served our country that I was privileged to know. Our fire department, like many around here, had a lot of veterans from the Greatest Generation join the ranks. Joe was a championship boxer while serving in the Corps. Almost to the day he passed on, he was always in top physical condition. He worked out at the YMCA in Hempstead. I saw him many times running when I worked in Hempstead. When the fire department installed a gym in the firehouse, he was always there. He was mentor to many who wanted to stay in shape. Eventually, he organized and ran the department’s physical agility program and designed the test that is given new members before they are sworn in. He helped many prepare for the test before it was given.

Joe joined the Hicksville Fire Department on Jan. 13, 1953 and was assigned to Chemical Co. 3 (now known as Citizens Engine Co 3). He soon became a chauffer and pump operator. He was a member of the Rescue Squad and served as captain in 1959. He rose through the ranks and served as captain of Co. 3 in 1970 and 1971. Joe was an avid bocce player and persuaded the Board of Fire Commissioners to let him build a bocce court behind Fire Station 3. With the help of many members he accomplished that goal. Since then, every year after the Memorial Day Parade the department holds the Annual Bocce Ball Tournament and Family Picnic. The bocce court was designated “Pollina Park” He was also a member of the department’s Fire Police Squad, active to the very end. He completed 50 years of active service in 2003. The membership voted to honor his service by promoting him to Honorary Chief and his Company presented him with his gold shield. He continued responding to alarms and helping anyone who reached out to him. At the time of his passing he had served 57 years.

At home, Joe earned a living as a professional painter. Nobody did it better. He was the beloved husband of his late wife, Ellen. When she became ill, he was always there for her and shared her suffering. Her passing devastated him, but he toughed it out. He was the father of Gail and a proud grandfather and great grandfather and was also the brother of Ida Catanzaro. Services were held at the Wagner Funeral Home in Hicksville. His flag covered casket was carried on the apparatus of his company, Citizens Engine 3. Internment was at Pinelawn Memorial Park in East Farmingdale on Aug. 27.

As you can see, Joe accomplished a lot in the “dash” between 1919 and 2010. Joe’s service to country and community will not be forgotten and serves as an example for all of us. May he rest in peace.

Honorary Chief Joe Pollina, Dec. 1, 1919 – Aug. 23, 2010.