At the sites of emergencies, longtime Oceanside firefighters Henry Emilio and John Moisuk could frequently be found serving coffee and other refreshments to their peers out of a vibrant yellow chuckwagon that they attached to Moisuk’s car.
According to his peers, offering refreshments to firefighters after a job was just one of the many giving characteristics that defined Emilio, who died on Jan. 17 at age 97. A World War II veteran, Emilio joined Oceanside Hose Co. 1 in September 1963 when he was 42, at the behest of his good friend and neighbor Moisuk, who predeceased him.
“Henry was just a community-oriented type of person,” recalled Bob Jacoby, who served in the OFD and as a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post with Emilio. “He was a likeable guy. I don’t know anybody that had anything bad to say about Henry. He’d pitch in and do what he had to do.”
Born in Binghamton on Feb. 19, 1921, Emilio would have turned 98 this year. While serving his country in Europe during World War II, Emilio lost his eye when he was hit with a piece of shrapnel. He had a glass eye for the rest of his life, but it didn’t stop him from serving in the Fire Department and driving well into his 90s. After World War II, he was awarded with the Purple Heart.
Emilio spent 55 years with the OFD, holding the offices of company trustee and financial treasurer for more than 40 years and serving as the president of the Oceanside Exempts association from 1977 to 1979, and as a board member for 25 years. He was also a teacher at the former Boardman Elementary School in Oceanside, which is now named School No. 9. In 1991, he was awarded honorary captain of the department and in 2013, a celebration was hosted in his honor to commemorate 50 years of service with the OFD.
In addition to being active in the Fire Department, Emilio also regularly attended services at the Windsor Avenue Bible Church. Jacoby said Emilio was a fixture at every firehouse meeting and appeared every Sunday for work detail. When he fell ill in December, his son, Henry Jr., came to the firehouse with a letter announcing his father’s resignation from his various positions.
“Honorary Captain Henry Emilio will be greatly missed by the 215 men and women of the Oceanside Fire Department,” Fire Chief David Bettes said. “Over Henry’s 55 years of active service, he has given tirelessly to his company and the department.
Brendan Combs, the captain of Hose Co. 1, described Emilio as a tough guy, who was very quiet and mild-mannered, but diligent in his duties. “He was always well prepared,” Combs said. “He collected our dues and did a lot of work. Even into his late 90s, he was at every meeting and made sure he took care of everybody’s business.”
In addition to his son, Emilio is survived by his daughter, Lorraine Frank, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wife, Alice, predeceased him. Emilio’s wake and funeral service were on Jan. 24 at Thomas A. Glynn & Son Funeral Home, in Rockville Centre. His interment with military honors took place at Calverton National Cemetery, in Wading River, on Jan. 25.
Jacoby spoke fondly of his late friend and former peer, and said he had many fond memories of Emilio and the wagon. “When he made that chuckwagon, that was a wonderful thing,” Jacoby recounted. “You get to the call, especially in the winter, and down the street that thing would come and we all couldn’t help but smile.”