Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00
Joseph Conlon couldn’t picture himself lasting five decades with the Mineola Fire Department. Today, after helping put together a groundbreaking unit for junior firemen, he would not have it any other way. Conlon will celebrate his 50th year with the department on
April 14 at a special gala honoring his commitment on April 25.
Conlon’s dedication to Mineola will forever be linked to the Mineola Junior Fire Department, which he helped found in 1976. Juniors learn fire prevention techniques, respond to fire calls and participate in numerous real-life drills, including wall-scaling and vehicle extraction, among other techniques.
“The first junior department I think was in Pennsylvania and then it started to spread across the country,” said Conlon. “We had a lot of meetings with the village board back then at the time. I remember going to a board meeting and [they gave us the opportunity].”
More than half the men that became chiefs recently in Mineola went through the junior department. Conlon always thought the junior program would endure.
“We started off with a shoestring type budget,” he said. “We just teaching them with the fire service manual and it just expanded.”
Years ago, juniors were restricted to types of fire calls. Today, they are almost on the level of regular firemen.
“It’s come a long way,” said Conlon. “This is all interesting to young kids. They want to get involved in the department.”
Conlon joined Engine Company No. 1 in 1964 and was named vice president in 1968. He was named president in 1969-70 and named second lieutenant from 1973-75.
“I think [serving this long] requires dedication, which every person in the fire department has,” Conlon said. “It makes you keep going.”
Conlon made captain in 1977, a post he held for two years. From 1980 to today, he serves as the first battalion delegate for Nassau County firefighters. Conlon was named Firefighter of the Year by Company No. 1 in 1990.
“As a volunteer, everyone comes together for one common goal,” Conlon said. “It was nice of the company to recognize me.”
Mineola FD Chief Jeff Clark commended Conlon for his time in Mineola. He spoke of Conlon’s dedication and effort toward juniors.
“I congratulate Joe and his family on 50 years of service,” Clark said.
“It’s an achievement that few attain. He is a valued member of the department. As a founding member of the juniors, I’m sure he looks back at a proud program that’s brought many
members into the service.”