Friday, July 13, 2018

Halko Remembered as Leader and Mentor

"I am the firefighter I am today, because of this man".

Many who live or have lived in the borough of Ashland, recognize the name Joe Halko. You knew him personally, passed him on the street, or just knew the family name.

Joseph Halko, was a mentor to many, and this week, he was laid to rest and honored, as any  firefighter and community leader, deserves.

Halko spent 38 years of his life as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service, mainly doing an Ashland route.

Halko was also a life member of the American Hose Company #1, Ashland, where he volunteered for 65 years.  During his active time with the Department, he served as Chief Engineer and President, Assistant Fire Chief, Fire Marshal and was the President of the Fireman's Relief.

Aside from the Post Office and fire department, he also served as President of the Board for the Pioneer Tunnel, was one of the original founders of The Men of Brennan for Cardinal Brennan High School, Ashland, was a member of the VFW and American Legion, as well as a Little League baseball coach for the Ashland A's.

Outside of his community work, Halko served in the Army from 1950-1952 during the Korean War and was a sergeant 1st class and received a Purple Heart.

At the age of 90, Halko passed away last Sunday at his home in Ashland.

During Wednesday's borough council meeting, Council President Ann Marie Groody held a moment of silence for Halko.  Ashland Mayor Raymond Walacavage also made a proclamation to designate, Friday, July 13, 2018 as "Joe Halko Day" in the borough.

On Thursday, Halko was laid to rest and was honored by his brothers with the fire department during a service at St. Borromeo's Church, Ashland.

Kevin Groody, a member of the American Hose Company #1, Fire Chief of the Worthington Fire and Rescue, Kentucky, spoke of Halko's leadership.

Kevin Groody said "Joe was the kind of man that walked into a room and you knew he was a leader". 

He added that Joe exercised true leadership.  "He was the kind of person that could adapt to any situation, listen to both sides of a problem, he could deal with people, and took accountability for himself." Groody said.

Groody also said Halko was a leader that put his men first.

He recalled a story from 1977 when Halko was injured in a fall during a fire in the borough.  When Groody first visited him after the fire, the first words out of his mouth were "How are the rest of my men?"

Also speaking at the service was the Ashland's Fire Chief Phillip Groody. 

Phillip Groody called Halko his "mentor" and the reason he joined the American Hose Company.

Groody spoke on how over Halko's 65 years of service with the fire department, he witnessed 3 eras of fire apparatus in the borough. 

He told a story on how when they first began fighting fires together.  "It was a time when fire calls came in through phones, not radios and pagers."  He also referenced a time when Halko and Groody caught a fire bug together on Brock Street in the borough and how when the fire calls came in, they knew the homes by who lived them, not by their address.

Groody spoke on prior to becoming fire chief in 2000, he worked as assistant engineer under Halko until he left the position in 1992.

He also spoke about a conversation with the Frank Zangari, Chief of the Ranger's Hose Company, Girardville, during the viewing service.  "We lost our mentor, Frank", Groody stated.

He ended his eulogy with, "Remember a person not by what they did, but what goes on after they leave". 

After the service, members of the American Hose Company and Halko's family carried his flag draped casket.  An arch was erected in front of the American Hose Company on Walnut Street by Washington Fire Company Ladder Truck and the 1959/93 American Lafrance 85' ladder truck that resides with the Schuylkill County Fire Historical Society (A former Washington Fire Company, Ashland, Ladder Truck).

At the graveside services, Halko was honored by Military Honor Guard as well as the Ashland VFW and American Legion. 

As one last honor, a Final Call was announced from the Schuylkill County Communications Center. (The procession and final call can be seen and heard in the video below).