Saturday, August 14, 2021

Schuylkill County Fire Community Remembers Joe "Blackie" Kufrovich

On Saturday morning, the Schuylkill County Fire Service came together to remember Joe "Blackie" Kufrovich, a friend, mentor, and leader in the fire community.

Joseph "Blackie" Kufrovich, passed away in December of 2020,  from complications due to lung and heart failure. He fought and had successfully survived four previous cancer occurrences over his lifetime.

Blackie was well-known through his leadership with the Ryan Township Fire and Rescue, Schuylkill County Historical Fire Society, and has helped train many of today's Schuylkill County Firefighters.

Due to COVID-19, a proper memorial service was unable to be held.

Thanks to the Schuylkill County Fire Historical Society, a service was organized for Saturday to allow the community to properly honor him.

The service was held outdoors in front of the Schuylkill County Firefighters Memorial at the Schuylkill Fire Training Academy near Frackville with over 100 of Blackie's friends, family, and fellow firefighters in attendance.

Roughly a half-hour before the service, volunteer firefighters from around Schuylkill County began arriving in their apparatus and wearing full dress uniforms.

The service began as firefighters marched to the service led by Kristen Egan, a member of the Hawk Mountain Highlanders, playing the bagpipes.

Girardville Fire Chief and President of the Schuylkill County Fire Chiefs Association, Frank Zangari was Master of Ceremonies for the service, along with Kelly Davis, from the Port Carbon Fire Department who lit a memorial candle and led attendees in the pledge of allegiance.

Dave Sattizahn, of the Pine Grove Fire Department and President of the Schuylkill County Firefighters Association, welcomed everyone and introduced the special guests.

Providing a eulogy for Blackie was Michael Kitsock, a long-time friend and fellow firefighter and instructor.

Kitsock spoke about Blackie's influence on the county.

"So vast was his sphere of influence, so many fire companies and firefighters he helped over the years, they simply knew him by no other name. He was that good" Kitsock said.

Kitsock spoke about their days of going to high school together and Blackie being a "mean dude" back then, but once you cut through his exterior, he had a heart of gold.

"Blackie learned a valuable lesson early in life that sadly some people never do learn", Kitsock said. "Blackie recognized two God-given gifts he had, the ability to work magic with his hands, and his ability to share knowledge to teach. Those two gifts became hallmarks of that man's life and he devoted his life to those traits".

Matthew Morgan, Captain of the Ryan Township Fire Company spoke of Blackie's 36 years of uninterrupted time with the fire company.

Blackie joined the fire company on May 7th, 1971, served as a foreman from 1975 to 1981, assistant chief from 1981 to 1985, and Chief of Ryan Township Fire Company from 1986 to 2011. During this time he also served as EMA Coordinator and Fire Marshal for the township.

"That is where his statistics end but there is a whole lot more to Joe than that" Morgan said. 

"After his years of officership ended, he always said, if there was anything you need, just call me. If there was a question about apparatus, call Joe. Need a couple of cars to cut up for training next week, call Joe. Have a fire and need help with the investigation, call Joe."  he added.

"Did you need to take that extrication certification class at the West End next week? No, we already had it. We took the class because Joe was teaching it." Morgan said.

"The amount of knowledge that sat under that white helmet, in my opinion, was second to none."

Blackie's sister, Reverand Bernadette Kufrovich-Meck provided prayer for the service and read Psalm 23, Revelation 21:1-7, and led the Lord's Prayer.

State Senator Dave Argall, Representative Tim Twardzik, Representative Jerry Knowles, County Commissioner Gary Hess, and County Commissioner Baron Hetherington all spoke about Blackie and provided proclamations to his mother who was in attendance.

To close the service, a bell was rung along with a recording of his last call.

Kristen Egan played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes and Reverend Fred Crawford led the benediction.

The service and those in attendance displayed how many lives Blackie had touched in his lifetime.

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