Family members, friends and fellow firefighters of former Chief John “Jack” Schilt gathered last Sunday at the Franklin Square & Munson Firehouse on Liberty Place, in Franklin Square, to honor Schilt’s more than 60 years of service to the Fire Department with a new scholarship in his name.
With donations from the chief’s family, the John “Jack” Schilt Memorial Scholarship Fund will award $600 to a high school senior who is a child, sibling or grandchild of a current or former member of the department, or of the Exempt Association or Ladies Auxiliary. Members of Fire Service Exploring, a service-oriented branch of the Boy Scouts of America, are also eligible.
“This scholarship is a great way to continue Jack’s legacy and honor his memory,” Second Assistant Chief Joseph Gerrato said.
Schilt, who died in 2015, served in the U.S. Army’s 66th Infantry Division during World War II. In northern France, he earned the American Campaign Medal, the Europe-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Schilt’s daughter Judi said that her father later worked as an electrical engineer at Consolidated Edison in New York, and after a long commute, he would often head to the Fire Department to volunteer.
“After working all day, he’d come [home] and even fall asleep on the couch, and no one could wake him up,” she said. “But when the sirens rang, he’d get up right away and go.”
In 1959, around the time that Schilt first began volunteering, a new firehouse was built on Liberty Place. The firehouse, which houses the current department, has room for three engine companies, a ladder company, a rescue company and an EMS company, According to the department’s website. Schilt became department chief in 1961.
Commissioner Dennis Lyons, who met Schilt more than 50 years ago, reminisced about the old days when he first voluntered. Lyons said that Schilt recognized when volunteers were having problems and would help them without criticizing. He even remembered the smile that Schilt so often had on his face.
“He really did help foster the feeling of having a second family here,” Lyons said.
Shilt’s daughter remembered going to the firehouse with her father to celebrate holidays and host barbecues for community members. She said her family was grateful to the department and wanted to give back to the community that her father loved.
Daniela Pasquarello, the daughter of Rocco Pasquarello, a former department captain, was the first recipient of the Schilt scholarship. The 2018 Walt Whitman High School graduate said she was following in her father’s and sister’s footsteps in joining the Fire Explorers group when she was 14. Pasquarello said she was honored to receive the scholarship, and thanked the Schilt family for their donation.
“I hope I can act in a way that resembles the values he held,” she said.
Pasquarello was president of her high school’s Rotary and Interact clubs, for which she helped spearhead several charitable events to aid veterans, the homeless and people suffering from heart disease. The Interact Club’s motto is “Service Above Self.”
South Huntington School District Superintendent David Bennardo said in a statement that Pasquarello was “a rare type of individual who squeezes the most out of her talents in the service to others.
“She is a remarkable human being who seems to enhance the life of everyone she’s ever met,” Bennardo added.
Pasquarello will attend Washington Uniersity in St. Louis this fall, where she will study pre-medicine. She said she hopes to volunteer at her local fire department after her undergraduate studies.
Schilt’s daughter said that too few women volunteered for the fire service when she was growing up, and that she was inspired by Pasquarello’s commitment, adding that she was pleased that there are more women firefighters now. She even mused about pushing her own daughter to volunteer at the fire department in Dix Hills.
Starting next year, a committee will pick Shilt scholarship recipients. Applications and recommendations will be accepted no later than May 2019. The Schilts plan to increase the scholarship to $1,000 in the coming years and hope to continue offering it for the next 16 years.