There are occasionally debates and deliberation as the Herald chooses its Person of the Year. This isn’t one of those years. The clear choice for 2012 is Dominick Famularo, 85, Baldwin’s oldest firefighter and also its eldest high school graduate.
“I knew Dominick when I was growing up,” said Robert “B.A.” Schoen of his friend and mentor. “Like my dad, he had a business on Grand Avenue. Everyone in Baldwin should know Dominick.”
Famularo’s incredible year began back in April, when Baldwin’s Hose Company Three dedicated the firehouse on Baldwin Avenue to him. The gesture celebrated Famularo’s 61 years of service to the department, and the ceremony, which was attended by more than 100 people, took place during a sunny break in an otherwise dreary day.
“We looked at 60 years of service to the department, and to the firehouse itself, and we knew he deserved this,” said Douglas Wiedmann, commissioner of the Baldwin Fire District. “His commitment to his family, to the community, it’s immeasurable.”
Famularo, who fellow longtime firefighter John Cools says still visits the firehouse three or four times a week, has held nearly every job in the department over his decades of service. He has been a mechanic, a chief, a fire safety educator — and a tireless promoter of department activities.
Cools said that Famularo — who first got involved with the department when he returned to Baldwin after serving in Germany, France and Italy during World War II — was characteristically emotional when he was honored by the department. “There were many tears, many smiles,” Cools said. “If you know Dominick, he can get a little huggy-kissy. He’ll come up to you, give you that big, Italian kiss on the cheek, and you know all’s right with the world.”
Last graduate of ’45, first of 2012
It’s not too often that someone who is recognized with a lifetime achievement award graduates from high school the same year, but Famularo — a father of four with his wife, Mary — managed to pull off the trick.
The quest to award him the high school diploma he gave up when he skipped out on the latter half of his senior year at Baldwin High to join the Army began with an old yearbook. Schoen, a former school board trustee, was leafing through a copy of the 1945 BHS Nexus when he came to a page containing a “Tribute to the Class of ’45 in service.” Schoen saw Famularo’s name on the list of young men who had left school to fight the war.