NEW FAIRFIELD – For the past 53 years, the month of May has been Older Americans Month. In recognition of this, the New Fairfield Commission on Aging has named Robert Jano New Fairfield’s Outstanding Senior Citizen of 2018.
Mr. Jano has been serving his fellow residents ever since he and his wife, Marge, moved here 46 years ago. He joined the volunteer fire department in 1972 and has served continuously ever since. For Bob, it was only natural that he should join the department once he moved to town. Growing up in the Bronx, he’d always wanted to be a fireman. As a teenager, he became an auxiliary fireman—a designation established by the Office of Civil Defense—with Engine 52 in the Bronx. He recalled riding his bike to the station.
When he was 16, his family began spending summers in Putnam Lake. He began volunteering with the Putnam Lake Fire Department, something he continued to do for 17 years until he moved to New Fairfield. “In those days,” Bob recalled, “Put Lake covered Ball Pond all the way up to (Route) 39,” until the Ball Pond Fire Department was organized in 1959. The Ball Pond Station was completed in 1962.
When he joined the New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department, it was still located in the old firehouse on Brush Hill Road, the current site of the Finance Department and Board of Education offices. In 1982, the department moved into a new facility now known as the Company A Firehouse located between Consolidated School and the Police Department.
In his 46 years as a firefighter in New Fairfield, Mr. Jano has performed just about every job there is. He estimates that he’s answered more than 1,000 calls over the years while at the same time working full time for 32 years for the New York Telephone Company. On two of his most memorable calls he wound up delivering babies—one boy and one girl. The boy he delivered now has grandchildren, while the girl, Mary Ellen Silvestri, calls him a “grandfather by proxy” to her own children.
Over the years, Mr. Jano has served New Fairfield in many other capacities. He served on the New Fairfield Planning Commission from 1973 to 1980. During his tenure, the Commission developed the town’s first Master Plan in conjunction with the State. The plan laid out the groundwork for future land use and development in town including planning for school campuses, shopping centers, zoning acreage, and location of police and emergency services.
He also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals from 1995 to 2009 and has been a member of the town’s republican National Committee since 2005. Since 1985 he has been part of the volunteer Fire/Police Department, a group that maintains order on roads during an accident or traffic issue. He’s also been an usher at St. Edwards since moving to town.
Of his time on the Zoning Board of Appeals, Mr. Jano said it was “like being a judge”, and he took pains to “try to be fair and do what’s reasonable.” He said that he made it a point to visit the property of every case that came before the Board rather than just looking at it on paper. This helped him get a better sense of what the true situation was which enabled him to make better informed decisions.
When we spoke, Mr. Jano was quick to point out that none of his volunteer work would have been possible without the support of his wife, Marge Jano. “My wife is a saint,” he said, and went on to describe how she put up with him working nights and weekends while she worked in the schools for over 30 years and raised their children. He said they were able to accomplish all they did because “we work together as a team.”
Bob still devotes as much time as he can to the department, saying, “I enjoy doing it. I’m still active. I train the new guys on how to run a pump and things like that.”
When asked why he’s been so dedicated to the town for so long, Bob did not have to think twice. “The town has been very good to us. We love it here. It’s been an honor to serve the people in town all these years. We’ve met many wonderful people and made lifelong friends. We all help each other out. It’s been a great life.”
A ceremony honoring Bob will be held Monday, May 7 at 1:00pm in the New Fairfield Senior Center.
By Greg Slomba