John Kessler, a 61-year member of the Mineola Fire Department, passed away on Sept. 5 and Bill Pokorny, who served in the department for 58 years, passed away on Nov. 8. Both have been outstanding members of the community and outstanding members of the fire department.
John or "Rube" as he was also known to his friends, was born in Brooklyn on June 6, 1922 and moved to Mineola in 1924. He served in World War II from 1942 to 1945 seeing combat duty in Italy and Africa. When John returned home from the service, he worked with his family building homes, one of which he resided in. On September 18, 1946, John decided to help the community by joining Company #3 of the Mineola Fire Department.
In the 1940s and 1950s, John was very active with the drill team as well as the bowling team. In 1951, John married his lovely wife, Patricia, who in 1954 also decided to help her community by joining the Ladies Auxiliary of the Mineola Fire Department. John and Pat together raised three fine children - John, Robert and Patricia. They also have five beautiful grandchildren.
John has held many positions in Company #3, starting with Warden from 1964 to 1969. In 1972, John was elected 2nd Lieutenant and held that position until he was elected 1st Lieutenant in 1974. John attained the highest position in Company #3 when he was elected captain in 1976, a position he held until 1978. John also held other positions such as president of the 25-Year Club, trustee of Company #3, and various delegate positions to many different firematic organizations.
In his later years, John remained an active member of the company by helping out on special cleanings, hose tests, and the subscription drive as well as by attending meetings and giving advice based on his over 60 years of firefighting knowledge. He could always be found at the firehouse on Monday nights with the remaining members of the "Knights of the Round Table" who included his brother Bill Kessler, Ted Nowakowski and Mike Maiolica. The other member of the "Knights" who John was close with was the late Mike DeStefano, Jr.
Bill was raised in Queens Village. He attended Public School 34 and graduated from Delahanty High School in Jamaica. He married Ruth Milton in 1948 and had three children, Thomas E. Milton, William G. Pokorny II, and Ellen L. Deister.
Like John Kessler, Bill Pokorny was a longtime Mineola resident, having moved to Mineola in 1950. He joined Company # 1 of the Mineola Fire Department and served as a volunteer firefighter for 58 years. He was a past president and financial secretary of Company #1. He was a past president and secretary of the Mineola Fire Department's 25-Year Club. In 1956, he was a delegate to the 84th Annual Convention of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY) and was a life member of the association. Bill is also credited with forming the state association's first public relations committee and was chairman from 1966 to 1974. He was a member of the Southern New York Volunteer Firemen's Association since 1953, was secretary from 1966 to 1980 and climbed the ladder to president in 1985. He was also a member of the Nassau County Firemen's Association. In 1969, he re-established the Nassau County Firemen's Association Bulletin and was editor until 1972. He was secretary from 1987 to 1990 and once again climbed the ladder in the Nassau County Firemen's Association and was elected president in 1996. He was named "Fireman of the Year" for 1996 by the Mineola Fire Department and was also the recipient of Nassau County Executive Tom Gulotta's "Nassau County Firematic Award" for 1996.
Bill's community service has been widespread and not confined to the volunteer fire service. He was a past president of the East End Civic Association in Mineola, the Mineola Republican Club and the Citizens Party of Mineola.
He was also a member of the North Hempstead Bi-Centennial Commission and was treasurer of the Historical Society of the Town of North Hempstead from 1980 to 1988. He was also a member of the Mineola Historical Society.
Bill was employed by the Long Island Railroad for 32 years and retired as a train dispatcher in 1974. He was a messenger in the Town of North Hempstead Town Clerk's Office from 1974 to 1985.
In his senior years, he continued to take an active roll in the community and his fellow man. He added senior clubs to his many activities. In 1986, he joined the Williston Park Senior Citizens Club and immediately volunteered to become tour director. In 1989 he became vice-president of the club and was president from 1990 to 1992. He joined the Williston area AARP Chapter #1868 in 1985 and also served as their tour chairman. He was elected second vice-president of the chapter in 1988 and was president in 1992 and 1993. He was also a member of the chapter's executive committee. He was a member of the Mineola Leisure Club and was president from 1998 to 2000.
In recognition of his over 50 years of service in the Mineola Fire Department, Bill was awarded the title of honorary chief.