“Our heroes are those..who..act above and beyond the call of duty and in so doing give definition to patriotism and elevate all of us. America is the land of the free because we are the home of the brave.

~ David Mahoney

2019 Heroes

Frankie O’Hara

Frankie O’Hara was born September 4, 1956. He was the all-American boy. He loved the outdoors, camping, fishing and hiking. He was also an avid sports nut playing football, baseball and his favorite, wrestling. He won his match the night before he died with a broken finger by pinning his opponent in 3 seconds!

Frankie would do anything for anybody. He had an infectious smile and the brightest blue eyes.  One very cold day in January 1969, he and his friends went down to the lake. It was partially frozen.  They were watching the waves cascade and freeze. Steve, his buddy, walked out onto the ice and fell in. Frankie immediately went to help as their other buddy John went up the hill to get help. Steve’s boot was stuck and without hesitation, Frankie jumped in to help him. When additional help arrived, they formed a human chain and pulled Steve safely from the freezing water. A thick log, however, had hit Frankie on the back of his head and took him under. His body was found out in Lakewood in April of that year.

It has been 50 years since this accident. Some days it feels like yesterday. I am his sister, Mary Beth.  Frankie and I were good buddies. We have two older sisters, Marlene and Kathy and a younger brother Mark. I was 14 at the time of his death. Frankie was only 13. He has always been my hero and special angel.

Thank you for honoring him. It means more to me than you will ever know.

Ron DeMeza

When we made the call to ask if he would accept the nomination for the Heroes for Andy award, Hospice of the Western Reserve volunteer, Ron DeMeza, immediately responded “You mean Andy Nowacki?” Wow!

This 2-year hospice volunteer has dedicated his service to conducting Veteran Recognition Ceremonies to hospice patients and their families. Sometimes called “pinning ceremonies”, Mr. DeMeza takes pride in presenting our “Peaceful and Proud” Veteran’s program by honoring veteran patients during their last days or months of life.

Surprisingly, many Veterans have not spoken of their combat or military experiences with their families. Sons and daughters, grandchildren, and spouse might be hearing their loved ones’ stories for the first time. It is Ron who creates the presence and provides the respect, the space and the willingness to listen when veterans are acknowledged for their service to the United States of America. This role requires a unique courage.

As the moving ceremony ends, the Veteran patient and Ron salute each other. Some of these soldiers ”come back” from their actively dying state to do this salute. Such a moment fills all of us with dignity, respect, closure and deep emotion. Usually there is not a dry eye among us. Ron so generously serves these patients and families with kindness and compassion. He is often ready to say yes when the Volunteer Manager calls. Ron is willing to drive a distance which many other volunteers will not. Thus, Ron has given his time to patients throughout Cuyahoga and Lake Counties.

To be among those who “go above and beyond the call of duty to elevate others” is right where Ron DeMeza belongs, according to these numerous Volunteer Service Managers at Hospice of the Western Reserve who get the privilege to work with Ron. We are so grateful to Ron for not only his service to the United States of America, but his continued blessing to volunteer to honor Service men and women during a tender time of life. Thank you, Ron.

Deacon Joe Bourgeois

For twenty years, there hasn’t been a Wednesday evening that the Knight Riders have failed to be on the road giving aid to the homeless. Knight Riders, a branch of the Helping Hands and Clown Ministries at St. Paschal Baylon Church, founded in 1999 by Deacon Joe Bourgeois, now has about 100 volunteers from throughout the community who and deliver toiletries and food to those in need.

Regardless of beliefs, Helping Hands is all-inclusive, for them it is about community.

In addition to the Wednesday night trips, on the second Thursday of each month it heads to St. Augustine Church. On the fourth Saturday of each month, it’s on to St. Vitus Church and the surrounding neighborhood where help is needed. 

Deacon Joe was working at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Houston when he inspired the staff to dress as clowns to cheer young patients: The Clown Ministry.  “They called us Colorful Clowns,” he said. “When they made the movie ‘Patch Adams’ with Robin Williams, they came to our hospital to see what we were doing.”

From planting and growing fresh produce, collecting food and supplies for the homeless, to providing comfort and humor via the Clown Ministry, Deacon Joe has quietly spent a lifetime of compassion and service to our less fortunate. A member of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, Deacon Joe, in 1978, became the first permanent deacon in the country.

Dawn Kendrick

Too often we hear the negative, discouraging stories and rumors. It seems to permeate nearly every aspect of our lives. So much so, that it can change our view and faith in humanity. But there are certain special souls that seem to be immune to its effects. There are those that see the goodness in others and then there is Dawn who celebrates and shares the Good Stuff with all.

Dawn Kendrick is one of those rare people who uses her gift as a communicator, to bring light unsung heroes and worthy causes. She is a staunch and vocal supporter of First Responders and our Nation’s Warriors. With Dawn it is about respecting life, not just humanity. She [SFII is also the best friend to fur, feather or fin and has spent countless hours to help animals in need of forever homes.

For nearly two decades Clevelanders have benefited as a result of Dawn’s tireless, accurate and impactful reporting. An example is the sad story of Kevin Houdeshell. Kevin, a 36-year-old, in shape diabetic, died because he was unable to get in touch with his Doctor and get his prescription refilled. Dawn’s Media Award winning series “Kevin’s Story”, a family’s fight for access to life-saving drugs, led Ohio lawmakers to change the law that allows pharmacists to extend emergency supplies of life-saving drugs.

Dawn Kendrick, raised in the ‘”Show Me” state of Missouri, says, “Show me, The Good Stuff” and I’ll help you make a difference.

2018 Heroes

Randy Schmidt

From age 12, Randy knew that he wanted to serve his country and has spent most of his life in service to others. 

Randy joined the Marines at age 17 and was deployed to Viet Nam. He received a head wound and was nearly buried alive when a bunker caved in on him. Although saved by a corpsman, Randy experienced the loss of his sight.

After discharge, he began a twenty-six-year career of working with troubled youths in San Mateo County, California in a variety of positions, developing the skills that he uses today. 

After retiring, Randy and family moved to Medina. Maintaining his core Marine values, Randy, although legally blind, became actively involved in and held offices in four veteran’s groups: The Marine Corps League, Disable American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Veteran’s Coalition. He currently serves as a Veteran Service Commissioner for Medina County.

While attending a Veteran Coalition meeting in Medina, he heard a Volunteer Coordinator speak about the hospice “We Honor Veteran’s Program”. Randy then enrolled in and completed his core education and became a hospice volunteer in 2014.

He began by participating in pinning ceremonies and Vet to Vet visits and then began taking an active role with the By Your Side vigil team. Their philosophy is “no one should die alone” and team members offer to sit bedside with patients during their last 24-48 hours of life.

Randy exemplifies duty, honor, and a humble spirit in his service for our country and for those he serves in our community.

John Voso

When one hears the word “hero,” one thinks of a person in uniform, an important figure, or a dignitary. Most heroes, however, are folks who quietly go about their lives making things a little bit better for others.

John is a hero to children suffering from cancer. After cancer took his three-year old nephew’s life, John and his family began the Richie White Fund. He helps host a huge event at the Cleveland Clinic every December, fulfilling children’s Christmas wishes.

No request is too big or too small. John and his team shop for countless hours making every wish come true.  He has authored two books to benefit the Richie White Fund: Today’s Heroes and Italian Recipes From My Friends. Both are filled with amazing stories and love. He has traveled across the United States promoting the Richie White Fund and his dedication and commitment are boundless.

He has been a hero to the Dancing Wheels Company. Dancing Wheels is an amazing group of wheelchair dancers. He tries to attend every concert, board meeting, fundraiser, and makes the performers feel like stars.

No matter where he goes, John makes a friend. It could be at an airport, restaurant, or coffee shop and suddenly a total stranger will be involved in a conversation and wind up feeling better about the day. 

John is not your typical hero but spends his waking hours making things just a little bit better for those around him.

Deacon Albert Jones

Many have no idea where life is going to take them and a little boy in Louisiana was no exception.

Albert Jones had little notion that he would someday rise to become President of the Lake County Branch of the NAACP. Along the way, he was taught respect for others and for God as well as service, lessons that would come in handy.

As President, he knows the importance of cooperation and will frequently call on members of his executive board to help come up with new ways and ideas for event planning for scholarships and bringing new job opportunities and education to the people. 

He does not think that the NAACP is just for the African Americans in the community but rather that it’s for all who strive to make the community better. He is currently working on a board that involves new incoming members and loves the input of young people.

He endeavors to teach folks that one does not necessarily need a college degree to get a good paying job and many simply require good training. He became actively involved in a program called “Building Civil Servants”, designed to get citizens interested in becoming first responders.

He is also deeply committed to another program entitled, “Begin The Conversation”, which endeavors to bring all members of the community together to help lessen the differences and see others in a different light. 

Albert is also a Deacon at his church and is heavily involved in its Sunday School program. In his copious free time, he is President and CEO of Alberts, Inc.

2017 Heroes

Robert Zonneville

If you ask him, Robert Zonneville considers himself a lucky man. A WWII veteran who was wounded twice in combat, survived one of the deadliest battles of the war — the Battle of Hurtgen Forest left a reported 33,000 casualties — and was almost deployed to Japan two days before the dropping of the atomic bomb, Bob certainly has much for which to be grateful. Returning home in 1945 at the age of 20, Bob was celebrated as a well-decorated veteran; he was awarded two Purple Hearts, the French Legion of Honor Medal, and the European Theater of Operation Medal with Four Bronze Stars.

Bob would later become the president & CEO of a large trucking company. Through his many connections, he began fundraising for the Hospice of the Western Reserve more than 25 years ago through the Jackie McKinley annual golf outing. Bob is a founding member of Hospice of the Western Reserve’s Veteran Committee and was instrumental in achieving its highest rank and attaining four Peaceful & Proud designations, a national recognition for the Reserve’s dedication to providing care to veterans at the end of their life’s journey Upon retirement, Bob chose to volunteer at Western Reserve in a number of ways — public speaking, patient care, sitting vigil, and consoling grieving families. He is very familiar with Andy Nowacki’s legacy and the wonderful scholarships offered in Andy’s name. 

So, is Bob lucky? Perhaps. But without question, the luckiest of all have been the countless veterans and families afforded a respected and peaceful journey into the sunset.

Bob & Susan Conkey

Two years ago, Bob and Susan Conkey, retired Marine Corps veterans, decided to help the Cleveland Fisher House. 

The Greater Cleveland Fisher House is the Northeast Ohio affiliate of The Fisher House Foundation. Based in Rockville, MD, The Foundation is best known for the network of comfort homes it has built on the grounds of major military hospitals and Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers. At this time, there are 64 existing Fisher Houses operating in America & three overseas. Plans are on the drawing board for an additional 12 Fisher Houses, including Cleveland.

The Greater Cleveland Fisher House will actually be two homes with 12 — 14 suites and will accommodate up to 50 family members. The houses will be built adjacent to the grounds of The Louis Stokes VA Medical Center by University Circle in Cleveland. 

Wanting to do more for veterans (and veteran causes) than simply make an annual contribution, they devised a plan to host a fundraising event on their Oberlin farm. And so Conkey’sG04TheBuild was born in August 2015.

By the time of the first event in July 2016, Bob and Susan had worked tirelessly to promote their cause, putting in hundreds of hours.

Petitioning friends, family and fellow veteran groups — including Rolling Thunder, Charlie Daniels, the Cleveland Browns, the Dolan family, and the Cleveland Cavaliers — Bob and Susan were able to proudly present a donation to the Cleveland Fisher House totaling $28,000.

Ptl. Christopher Olup & Sgt. Robert Prochazka

On April 5, 2016, Patrolman Olup and Sergeant Prochazka responded to a call at 31511 Lakeshore Blvd. There was a working house fire in progress. Dispatch notified them that there was a disabled man in the home who could not get out. 

The officers arrived before the fire department personnel and discovered that the house was so engulfed in smoke that interior visibility was zero. Ptl. Olup crawled approximately 20 feet into the home, unable to see, before he was finally able to locate the disabled male. He immediately began pulling the victim toward the door.

Sgt. Prochazka, assessing the situation, also ran inside and grabbed Ptl. Olup in order for both of them to finally get the occupant to safety onto the front lawn. The officers had to be taken to Lake West to be treated for smoke inhalation but fortunately did not sustain any serious injury.

There is no doubt that would it not for their efforts, the disabled occupant would have most likely succumbed from either the fire or smoke inhalation.

Officer Bill Smith & Lt. Toby Burgett

Friday February 5, 2016, at approximately 5:26 p.m. Painesville Police Department shift officers were dispatched to 707 Argonne Arms Apartments for a report of a suicidal male with a shotgun, threatening to shoot himself. Officer Smith was the first officer on scene and immediately confronted a man threatening to shoot himself and others. Officer Smith drew his service weapon and ordered the male to put the shotgun down. The man put the weapon to his mouth several times and Officer Smith began trying to calm the suspect down.

It became increasingly difficult to talk with the male as numerous people began yelling towards them from neighboring apartments- Many comments were being yelled out, including racially motivated comments, yet Officer Smith continued to remain focused. At one point the man’s girlfriend came out and tried to pull the shotgun away which resulted in a quasi-tug of war with the shotgun. Officer Smith gained control and the female backed away.

The situation continued and a short time later, a male from a neighboring apartment called for Smith to shoot the man and then began yelling at the male to shoot himself. The suspect began yelling back using racial slurs. Officer Smith did an amazing job of remaining focused and talking down the suspect. After approximately 30 minutes, Lt. Burgett took over from the exhausted officer and began speaking with the offender. Officer Smith began sharing his observations and coordinating a less lethal response. Lt. Burgett kept the male focused by talking with him.

At one point, the suspect walked over the apartment brick wall, and leaned the shotgun against the wall but remained close to it. He smoked a cigarette facing the police. Once the male was done with the cigarette, he grabbed the shotgun, dropped to his knees and put the shotgun in his mouth. Officer Smith immediately deployed the pepper ball less-lethal system and released 10-15 shots aimed at his torso. These shots were effective in stopping a suicide from taking place at that moment. Another 10-15 rounds were then deployed to saturate the area with pepper gas.

Lt. Burgett continued talking to the suspect and thankfully, the suspect agreed to put the shotgun down. He unloaded it prior to putting it down and there was a live shotgun shell inside. The situation lasted a total of 44 minutes, and there is no doubt that the actions of Officer Bill Smith and Lt. Burgett saved that man’s life along with area residents as well as the suspect’s own girlfriend.

2016 Heroes

Officer Anthony Johnson

Three months. Three short, fleeting months. That’s how long Cleveland police officer Anthony (Tony) Johnson was able to live his lifelong dream. Appointed to the Cleveland Police Department on June l, 1981, Tony’s first day on the street was July 23, 1981. Tony was 22 years old. He and his beautiful wife, Tracy Johnson, 20, had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary. Tony Jr. was four months old. Always an athlete, Tony enjoyed the job’s fitness regimen so much that he would often ask Tracey to join in his training at home. It was these light-hearted moments that Tracy would soon come to cherish as unforgettable memories.

On October 21, 1981 at 9:36am, Tony and his partner, John Hyland, responded to a robbery at a National City Bank branch on Harvard Avenue. Upon arrival, the robbers opened fire on Tony and John. In an exchange of gunfire, both Tony and John were shot, but not before they wounded the robbers as well. Tracy learned of the incident from Tony’s fellow police brethren. Escorted to Brentwood Hospital to be with her husband, Tracy actually drove past the bank on the way. Not giving any thought to the bank, Tracy instead had thought something occurred at the school next door, that Tony was mildly injured.

At the hospital, Tracy was unexpectedly greeted by her parents, Tony Jr., and countless officers. That’s when Tracy’s mind began to race. She hugged her mother, anxiously asking what had happened. Her mother had to tell her that Tony had been shot in the head, that he was not going to survive. Officer Tony Johnson died that night at 7:46pm. Tony was buried with full police honors as over 2,000 family members, friends and fellow officers bid farewell to a man taken far too soon. 

As for the two thieves, they remain incarcerated, serving lifelong terms. One of them has waffled between death row and lifelong imprisonment for over two decades after numerous court decisions have given conflicting judgements. Tracy has spent countless hours working to pass House Bill #212, legislature that would require a victim’s immediate family to be given three days’ notice before releasing a commutation or pardon to the public. Tracy believes that victims’ families are owed that respect.

Tony Johnson is survived by Tracy, Tony Jr., his parents, six brothers, two sisters, and his in-laws, Nathan and Selina Sampson. His name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. — panel 51, west wall, line 13.

Officer Anthony Johnson left a legacy that lives in the hearts of his family forever — there is nothing more for which a man can ask. Gone but never forgotten, Badge #2341 is a hero.

Ernest (Pete) Hewins

Upon returning to Ashtabula after college graduation, Pete Hewins had three options — enlist in the service, be drafted in the July call-up, or join the Ohio National Guard. Because Pete had agreed to take over the family business, being away from home was not feasible. There was an opening in his local Guard Unit, so he enlisted; little did Pete know that he would serve the State of Ohio as a member of the Army National Guard for fourteen years, retiring with the rank of Captain.

While serving in the Guard, Pete supported the Northeast Ohio area thru many of its worst times — the Hough riots, the Collinwood riots, the Cleveland truck strike, the Cleveland State riots and worst of all, the Kent State riots. It was from these experiences that Pete learned what it meant to serve your fellow man, a notion that would ring true later in his life.

Over the past few decades, Pete has served on the board of numerous local agencies and charitable organizations. His most cherished involvement was with Elkdom, where he would eventually become the President of the Ohio Elks Association. Fittingly, the motto from the Elks is “So long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget”.

But no volunteer experience has brought him more joy than The Hospice of the Western

Reserve’s Peaceful and Proud, a nationally recognized veteran-to-veteran support program.

Introduced to the program by Sue Legg and his wife, Susan, Pete was convinced to give it a try. He would quickly become one of the program’s most active volunteers, with his Ashtabula team ready at a moment’s notice to honor a fellow veteran. Pete is so ingrained in the Western Reserve volunteer community, Sue now calls Pete her “Go-To Guy”

Beyond honoring veterans with his time, it is the stories that are shared which make it worthwhile. Veterans’ family members often remark at the surprising revelations and great details recalled by their loved ones; for many families, these stories were thought to be long forgotten, but Pete arouses memories from his fellow veterans that are cherished by their families long into the future. Pete considers it a true honor to be a small part of families’ important experiences.

According to Pete, “the feeling I get when I perform our Peaceful and Proud ceremony, especially the reaction to the oath and the hand salute, is especially rewarding. I am very proud to have been asked by Hospice of the Western Reserve to be one of the fortunate Veterans to be able to thank my fellow Veterans for their service to our country. Without their dedication and professionalism, we would not enjoy the freedoms that exist today.”

Sgt. Norman Shure

Seventy-three years ago, Sgt. Norman Shure was sitting down to a scrambled-egg breakfast at his Army camp near Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. A buddy passed him a new bottle of ketchup, and Norman shook it over his plate. Nothing was coming out, so he shook it some more. Suddenly some ketchup hit his plate with a splat. At that exact moment, an explosion lifted the breakfast table from the floor. A heartbeat later, a second blast shook the mess hall, and Shure ran outside to a horrifying scene as Japanese airplanes strafed and bombed the base.

That morning, December 7, 1941, was the day when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, launching America into World War Il. And Norman, who’d reluctantly left Cleveland as a draftee only five months earlier, was among the first Americans to experience the onset of combat. Norman was attending Fenn College in Cleveland, studying engineering, when he was drafted. He was assigned to the Army’s 34th Engineers and sent to Hawaii to build fortifications and Army bases. 

At that time, the war was a distant conflict in Europe, and Norman remembered being more upset about not being able to finish his education than the thought of becoming part of the war. But he soon discovered he had a much more pressing, and risky, job at hand when the first bombs hit Pearl Harbor. 

A scene of death and destruction awaited Shure when he ran outside the mess hall. “We were being bombed and ran out and got our guns. There were Japs all over the place, and I climbed a tree to get out of their way,” he said. “They were shooting at us, and we were shooting at them.”  From his vantage point, Norman could see the attack on other installations including Pearl Harbor where the U.S. fleet was taking a beating. “That was an awful morning,” he recalled.

After the attack, Norman and other soldiers were assigned to patrol the shoreline. Three men had been killed in his unit, including a good friend. Norman said that during the attack he saw three U.S. planes shot down, and it gave him an idea. “I had a hankering to replace those pilots, so I signed up for the Air Force,” he said. Norman was accepted and transferred to California for flight training but was later reassigned after indulging in an impromptu mock dogfight in the air with another pilot-trainee.

He was sent to meteorological training and became a weather forecaster in Scotland, which proved to be a stroke of good fortune. There, he met and married his wife of 62 years, Ishbel, and raised three children while working for an architectural firm. Norman still fondly remembers Ishbel as the girl that he loved at first sight. “I don’t think I would’ve ever married if I hadn’t met her,” he said.

2015 Heroes

Bob Hayes

Bob Hayes, an Army Veteran of the Vietnam War, carries on the esteemed legacy of the Hospice of the Western Reserve. During his 2 h years of service, Bob provides countless hours of support and accompaniment to fellow veterans and their families.

Bob has presided over more than 100 veteran recognition ceremonies for patients who have bravely served. It is in his preparation for these ceremonies where Bob uncovers the treasured stories of each veteran he commemorates; in spending time alone with a veteran, Bob connects on a level that even their families never knew. To hear Bob tell their loved one’s military stories and acts of bravery & heroism — often for the first time — that’s what keep Bob coming back for more. It is his privilege to afford families and loved ones, even for a brief moment, an opportunity to connect on a whole new level. Those moments are simply irreplaceable.

Each and every time Bob meets a new patient, he expresses deep gratitude and appreciation for their service to our country. What surprises Bob, however, is how many patients cannot remember the last time they were thanked for their service. It seems so simple to Bob yet is so powerful to his fellow veterans.

Bob and his wife Doris are active in the Hospice’s Northeast Ohio community outreach; they share their message as guest speakers, event advocates or simply as attendees. Their presence means more than they will ever know. Bob has also participated in Honor Flight and taken a leadership role in new volunteer orientation for veterans wishing to participate in Peaceful & Proud, a personalized care program for veterans.

Bob continues to give of himself, in part, for the commemoration of fellow Hospice volunteer Mike Ludwig, who received the Heroes for Andy Award in 2013. When Bob joined the volunteer team, Mike served as his mentor and they quickly formed a strong bond. When Mike unexpectedly became seriously ill, Bob and Doris were frequent and faithful companions, supporting both Mike and his family for months until Mike’s death.

When asked what keeps him going, Bob cites the indescribable bond between veterans. “During a ceremony, there frequently comes a point where the presence of the others in the room is no longer felt. As the service draws to a close, it’s just me and him, eye to eye. I salute. A tear rolls down his eye, and he salutes back.”

Justin Winebrenner

Saturday, November 15, 2014 started as a normal day for military veteran and police officer

Justin Winebrenner. He attended a fundraiser for a local youth football team. Afterwards, Justin and several of his fellow officers tagged along with local residents to a restaurant for a night of friendship.

As the night progressed, a man from the fundraiser had become unruly and was removed from the restaurant. The man soon returned, only this time with a handgun. The bouncer approached the man, who quickly opened fire on the innocent and unsuspecting patrons.

Seeing the bouncer be shot multiple times, Justin showed zero hesitation rushing the gunman. Unarmed and off-duty, Justin sustained gunshots to his abdomen and chest as he forced the gunman from the restaurant. 

Around 2:00 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, November 16, 2014, Justin Winebrenner lost his life selflessly protecting his fellow Americans. He was the only person to lose their life that night.

The principles and beliefs with which Justin lived and served his life were defended and upheld that evening. His parents, Rob and Lori Winebrenner, can find peace knowing that Justin’s final moments were spent protecting the core values they had instilled in him long ago.

Like many veterans who become police officers, Justin did not have a single heroic act. Rather, he had a lifetime of good deeds, countless acts of selflessness that he felt deserved no recognition or award. To protect and serve was simply the right thing to do. Justin Winebrenner’s legacy will live on and pave the way for future officers and Americans alike to defend what is right.

Service Dog Sofie De Wolf

Several years ago, Sofie’s partner, Tim DeWolf of the Ghostrider Foundation, was honored for his outstanding service to veterans. What often goes forgotten is that without Sofie, Tim could simply not do all that he does. At a time when we are losing nearly 20 veterans to suicide each day, Sofie and Tim team up to help the countless veterans who suffer from PTSD. 

Sofie joins Tim at speaking engagements. As Tim tells the story, “there was one event with nearly 70 people in the room. Through rounds of applause and Q&A, children and adults alike were crowding us and yet Sofie stayed with me through it all. At one point, we were squished into a corner and as moved from room to room. Sofie never budged even though people had to step over her.”

Sofie is also of great comfort to the families of veterans. She sits alongside, for hours on end, as families wait for hearings, appointments, treatments and evaluations. She has even visited veterans’ children who are hospitalized. Sofie is the ultimate goodwill ambassador. She opens doors for veterans, goes to court, to the hospital, to appointments; she goes anywhere there is a veteran in need. Many times, people who would otherwise maintain their “official” demeanor immediately warm to Sofie. 

Another time, Tim and Sofie joined Marines in delivering boom boxes to PTSD sufferers undergoing cancer radiation. Music goes a long way to relieving severe anxiety brought on by PTSD. While at the hospital, Sofie did a “morale run” through the treatment waiting room. It was generally agreed that Sofie made everyone’s day.

Sofie is a PTSD Service Dog. She is a Landseer Newfoundland. At five years old and 145 pounds, she stands over 5′ 10″ on her hind legs; she stretches over 7′ lying down. Needless to say, she is a very BIG dog with very BIG jobs. Tim often refers to his companion as his “giant, magic dog.” But perhaps Tim describes Sofie best with this simple yet powerful thought: “She has given comfort to a lot of vets, but especially to me.”

Ed Doherty

Ed Doherty has made a life of serving others. What began with his time in the Army during

Desert Storm extended itself to an unwavering passion. A founding member of the Andy Nowacki American Legion LEC Post 807 and the USVMC-Ohio East, he volunteered at homeless shelters for veterans and delivered Christmas stockings to veteran at Wade Park.

Ed has held numerous offices for the American Legion at the post, county, and district levels. He served as the Commander of the Lake County Council for the American Legion. He honored deceased veterans as a color guard member. He was VP of the Boulevard of 500 Flags. 

Ed also volunteered for LifeBanc, a non-profit organization in Northeast Ohio that focuses on organ donation. Ed helped to set a Guinness World Record for the largest number of transplant recipients gathered in one place (2/14/2014).

Ed passionately supported breast cancer awareness as well. His wife, Meg Doherty, is a repeat survivor of breast cancer. Not only was Ed at her side throughout the ordeals, but he helped support the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and helped Meg collect wigs for cancer patients at The Gathering Place. 

Whether to fellow veterans or people battling cancer, Ed was a proud and patriotic veteran who found great joy in his selfless service. Quite simply, Ed was an all-around kind-hearted man who would do anything for anybody.

2014 Heroes

Pam Staff

Ten years ago, Pam saw a gap that needed to be bridged and founded the Ohio Military Family Connection. This organization helps by being a resource that provides relevant goods and services, making this non-profit a unique organization. With 1000 volunteers statewide, Pam is able to have hands and feet touching nearly all of the 88 counties in the state of Ohio. That is how she has reached almost one million service members, veterans, and their families, as well as family members of fallen heroes. 

Pam’s husband describes her as the Energizer Bunny! For anyone that knows Pam — you know that is an accurate statement. She works tirelessly to help those in need.

You will find Pam organizing sporting events for military veterans and their families at the Browns, Cavs and Monsters games. Her organization was able to provide 2,400 Thanksgiving packages this past year. At Christmas there were five Gold Star families surprised by Santa who arrived via a convoy of police, fire, and rescue. They were able to provide gifts and remind these children that their fathers’ heroic efforts would not be forgotten.

Pam and her husband Mark have 3 children. The children participate in the Young Marine program. Pam is a wife, mother, friend, and one of the most caring individuals you will ever encounter.

Thank you, Pam, for making such a positive difference not only to your community but for the state of Ohio.

Nicholas Szaibel

As a former Andy Nowacki Scholarship recipient for the Lakeland Police Academy, Nick Szaibel is near and dear to our hearts. Nick has truly fulfilled his commitment and to watch the video, “Andy’s Shoes— The Fulfillment,” is to know the rest of the story.

On March 29, 2013 during a routine patrol, Nick received a call to assist Sgt. Danko. As Nick arrived at the location, he found no sign of Sgt. Danko. Nick circled the home and found the back of the house engulfed in flames. Nick saw that the door had been kicked in, but the flames were so intense he was pushed back! 

Nick then went to the front of the home and called out for Sgt. Danko. He was unable to see or hear anything as the smoke was too thick and the roar of the fire too loud. Nick was determined to help and continued his efforts until he was able to grab hold of Sgt. Danko and assisted him from the home. The Sgt. indicated an elderly woman was still in the home and Nick was able to go back to help the woman to safety as well. They were all treated for smoke inhalation; and, everyone was safe and sustained no life-threatening injuries.

As Nick got home that evening and recounted his story to his wife, she said, “You know, today is Andy’s birthday.” Nick knew at that moment that Ace had been with him and brought him through safely so he could go home to his wife, Diane, and his four children. 

Nick has received the Red Cross Act of Courage Award and a proclamation from the Mayor of Macedonia.

We are so proud of Nick and his accomplishments. Thank you for being a great reflection of Andy and what he stood for. Macedonia is a safer community because of you!

Jim Walters

Jim has been volunteering for Hospice for the last year and a half. He wants to give back to others that served our Country along with a desire to help those who are unable to take care of themselves. 

Hospice tells us that Jim exemplifies the characteristics of a dedicated volunteer and provides substantial support for people experiencing life limiting diseases.

Jim does everything from transporting people for doctors’ appointments, feeding a patient suffering from dementia to taking a patient to visit a cat sanctuary. Jim reassures spouses that they are doing a great job in taking care of their loved ones. Jim does not hesitate to take on difficult and unusual assignments. His kindness and generosity are felt by all he helps.

Jim received two Purple Hearts during his tour of Vietnam. He was in the Army from 9/6/66 until 9/5/68. Jim is retired from Met Life where he served as an Insurance Adjuster. He and his wife reside in Painesville and just celebrated their 25th anniversary.

Thank you, Jim, for giving back to your community in such a special and profound way!

Sharon Zunkley

Sharon Zunkley believes in Mo Williams, President and CEO of Keller Williams, and her philosophy in giving back. Sharon believes in the high standard of character so passionately, that she has been involved with organizing Red Day since 2007 and has chaired the NE Cares Committee for the last 4 years.

Through her efforts many local people have been touched through home repairs and help with landscaping. Sharon also helps those in need with donated clothing, food, gifts, and money.

One of the most touching outreach projects for Sharon was helping a Kirtland family who were unable to keep up with the exterior of their home due to a family member having cancer. Sharon organized approximately 50 volunteers and secured donated landscaping supplies. In one day, they were able to rip out all the old landscaping and plant the new.

Sharon is also committed to assisting veterans with the goal that 100 veteran homes will receive assistance in northeast Ohio. She has already helped 14 veterans this year.

Sharon has 2 grown sons living in California. She has many hobbies and is a thespian having appeared regularly at the Pittsburgh Playhouse prior to moving to Ohio.

Thank you, Sharon, for your compassion and drive in giving back to so many in your community. You are an inspiration to those around you!

Joseph P Tracz & Fred Fulton

On Monday, September 28, 1970, Officer Joseph P, Tracz had a lot to be thankful for. The former Ohio State football player was about to celebrate his first year as a Cleveland Police Officer. It was a job he loved. A tour of duty as an army paratrooper in Vietnam and a year of working at odd jobs were behind him now. Due to his high number of felony arrests, Tracz was awarded a merit pay raise. The money was coming at a good time, in about two months he and his wife Linda expected their first child. Another blessing came in the form of his partner, Fred Fulton. Joe Tracz and Fred Fulton were co-workers and good friends and seemed to click the first time they met.

On September 28, 1970, At 2:00 am, Officers, Tracz and Fulton observed a 1968 Buick run the red light at East 93rd and Yale. They pulled the vehicle over at East 105th and St. Clair where Officer Fulton exited the cruiser and approached the Buick. Without warning, the driver jumped out and began shooting, striking Fulton in the mouth, chest and groin. A passenger bailed from the Buick and Tracz gave chase. Another flurry of gunfire erupted and Tracz was struck. Although wounded, Tracz tackled his assailant. The assailant got up and fired a final fatal shot that ended the life of rookie Patrol Officer Joseph P. Tracz.

Although shot in the mouth, Fulton managed to crawl back to the cruiser and radio for help. Responding officers found Tracz and Fulton with Tracz still clutching the shoe of his killer.

The 1968 Buick was registered to Leonard Miller, a.k.a. “Skin” but as fate would have it, a nationwide manhunt failed to turn him up. Two years lapsed before Miller resurfaced. On May 1, 1972, Leonard Miller was arrested about half a block from the site of Officer Tracz’s murder while attempting to flee a bank robbery. The shoe found in Tracz’s hand was traced to Eddie Hampton.

On May 6, 1972, police raided a Pratt Avenue home on the city’s southeast side which produced the second suspect, Eddie Hampton. Tracz’s murderer was found cowering in a crawl space. Leonard Miller and Eddie Hampton were convicted and sentenced to life.

Officer Tracz was survived by his wife and son. After a long and difficult recovery period, Officer Fred Fulton returned to duty and was promoted to Detective.

Joseph Tracz’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. panel 29, west wall, line 6.

2013 Heroes

Brian Yonosik

Brian Yonosik is a Willoughby Hills resident and a hero to his neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Klemens. Brian was returning home just after midnight on October 26, 2012, only to find the Klemens’ home on fire.

Brian attempted to phone 911 but cell reception was poor. He began screaming out to other neighbors to dial 911. As Brian was calling for help, he was also trying to rouse the Klemens to their front door. Brian saw Mr. Klemens in the kitchen and realized that the roar of the fire did not allow for Mr. Klemens to hear him. Brian attempted to gain access by throwing a cement lawn ornament through the glass on the front door. Upon a second attempt, the glass blew out from the heat of the flames.

Brian quickly ran inside and urged Mr. Klemens out of the house, but when he appeared confused by the plea, Brian picked him up and ran outside. As he helped Mr. Klemens from the home, windows in the kitchen were exploding from the heat of the fire. Several neighbors had gathered at that point and Brian left Mr. Klemens with one of the neighbors. Mr. Klemens was able to let Brian know that his wife was in the lower level of their split-level home.

Brian entered the front of the home again in an attempt to rescue Mrs. Klemens, He was not able get down the stairs before smoke began to overtake him. Brian ran out of the house and to the rear of the home and gained access there. He was able to rescue and carry Mrs. Klemens out of the home.

It was at that time that Brian realized he was unable to breathe and was ultimately hospitalized for smoke inhalation. The Klemens suffered no injuries from the fire, Willoughby Hills Fire Chief, Richard A. Harmon, was quoted saying, “It is comforting to know this intrepid soul is a member of our fine community,”

Brian served in the United States Army from 1991 to 1994. He served on both the U.S.S. John F Kennedy and the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was an ironworker in the Cleveland area from 1999 to 2008. Brian then returned to school where he became a registered nurse, and he has been working at TriPoint since January 2012. 

Brian and his wife have a 4-year-old and a baby on the way.

Thank you, Brian, for being such an integral part of our community!

Jason Gresko

Jason Gresko graduated from Eastlake North High School and was a 2002 graduate of Cuyahoga Community College’s Basic Police Academy in 2002. He first started his peace officer career in Willoughby in 2003. He was subsequently hired by the Cleveland Clinic’s Police Department in November of 2006 and began working part-time in Willoughby and fulltime at the Cleveland Clinic. He also worked as a police officer in Timberlake.

In 2009, Jason was named Willoughby’s “Special Police Officer of the Year.” Many of Officer Gresko’s colleagues indeed felt that he was special. He went about his duties with a smile and always seemed to come up with better ways to handle situations. He was a member of both the Willoughby and Cleveland Clinic Honor Guards and was a member of the Crisis Intervention Response Team. In addition, he was a field training officer and CPR instructor.

Jason loved working as a peace officer and was very proud of his profession. He loved to travel but loved his family much more. He especially loved his wife, Sandra, and their daughter. 

On September 21, 2012, Officer Gresko responded to an “officer needs assistance” call and proceeded with all due dispatch to Lake West Hospital. As he was traveling on Harmony Lane in Willoughby with emergency lights on, a vehicle suddenly turned into his path. Officer Gresko immediately veered his cruiser away to avoid harming the occupants and his patrol car collided with a tree.

He perished protecting the safety of others. 

End of Watch: Friday, September 21, 2012

Mike Ludwig

Mike Ludwig is a volunteer for Hospice of the Western Reserve. He has the honor of working with the Peaceful and Proud Veterans Initiative program where he is able to connect with veterans through Hospice and recognize them for their contribution and sacrifice while serving our great country.

Mike was born and raised in Kansas but moved to Ohio to attend the University of Dayton. Mike graduated and was drafted into the Army in 1968. He served nine months in the field in Vietnam, and the remainder of his service was spent back in the U.S. performing clerical work on base.

After leaving the Army, Mike married his college sweetheart, Ann, and spent the next 37 years working at Cleveland State University as a Graphic Designer, Mike experienced many after-effects from his time in the field. It wasn’t until his retirement in 2009 that he was able to regain his voice through “Veterans for Peace.”

The Veterans for Peace organization invited the Hospice team to a meeting one evening. That is where Mike heard about the Peaceful and Proud program, and he has been working with Hospice ever since. When asked about the most poignant moment he has experienced, Mike tells about a man in a nursing home in Twinsburg. This man was incoherent and was in and out of consciousness. Mike said it was obvious to him that this man was reliving combat experiences. As Mike began to read the Veterans Tribute, the man began to settle. Eventually he sat up and calmly listened to what Mike was saying. He knew that he was being honored for service to his country. Mike gets choked up just remembering this precious time he was able to spend with this man.

Mike and his wife Ann live in the greater Cleveland area and have three children and four grandchildren. He is thrilled to be part of the Hospice organization. He refers to Ann and his family as his first love and his volunteering for Hospice as his second love.

Thank you, Mike, for volunteering and your support of our veterans.

Richard Campola & Christian Lim

Richard and Christian are part of the Mentor Fire Department and work out of Station #4. On Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 1 :39 a.m. the crew was dispatched to a scene where a car had driven into a house. The fire crew was met by a mother who advised that both of her children (who had been sleeping) were located underneath the car that now rested inside their home. Severe structural damage caused by the impact had blown a portion of the homes back wall completely off the house. Richard and Christian from Medic Squad 1142 made entry into the children’s bedroom from the back of the home to search for the trapped children. The two firefighters searched through extensive debris and were able to locate the 18-month-old baby girl. She was trapped inside an entangled pack-n-play. The duo handed her off to an outside crew and returned to rescue the second child. The 3-year-old boy was found trapped and partially snagged under the front driver-side wheel of the car. His breathing was quite shallow due to being pinned. Operating with only flashlights to see through the rubble, Richard and Christian used airbags to lift the car off the boy. The quick actions of these two Mentor Firefighters save the lives of these two children. The siblings are making a full recovery today and their parents are very grateful to Richard and Christian as well as the Mentor Fire Department.

Richard has been with the Mentor Fire Department since December 2003. He grew up in Oklahoma and relocated to northeast Ohio during high school. In his down time, he coaches his son’s baseball team. Richard also spends time supporting his sons Tai Kwando as he participates in tournaments. He enjoys spending time with his family. Richard indicated that the best part of his job is knowing that he has been able to make a difference.

Christian joined the Mentor Fire Department in November 2002. Prior to joining the Fire Department, he was a full-time teacher with the Elyria School District. Christian grew up in the Cleveland area and received his Bachelor of Education from Bowling Green. He enjoys traveling and being active outdoors. Christian and his wife have a 2 1/2-year-old. Christian enjoys the comradery that comes with being part of a team. For him it extends beyond Mentor to the other districts that he has the privilege to work with.

Hats off to both Richard and Christian, because of your quick action, this family is healthy and together!

Shianne Eagleheart

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Tim De Wolf

In 2008, Tim DeWolf and his daughter, Katie, founded the Ghostrider Foundation in memory of a local Marine who took his life during an acute PTSD episode. Since that time, Tim has been an integral part of the veterans’ community, a champion of veterans suffering from PTSD.

Tim is a veteran of the Vietnam War, having served in the United States Marine Corp. He was wounded in action during his tour and became a Purple Heart recipient. While in southeast Asia, he also contracted malaria.

Once stateside, he began working for his old company but was restless and eventually became a police officer, drawn towards risky assignments. He was injured on duty and was forced to retire.

Tim has devoted his life to veterans’ advocacy and has made huge strides within Northeast Ohio’s proper treatment of veterans. Tim has gone above and beyond the original mission of the Ghostrider Foundation. You can routinely find him providing rides for therapy appointments, as well as providing financial assistance and fundraising. Tim can be found at events with his service dog, Sophie, educating the public on PTSD and the struggles of veterans.

Tim does not hesitate to offer a homeless veteran a place to stay, a warm meal, or just an ear to listen. He and his wife, Lee Ann, often have troubled vets staying in their own home until the Veterans Administration can provide a bed.

As Executive Director of the Ghostrider Foundation, it is Tim’s mission to serve as a resource to his community, address the stigma of PTSD, and to educate the general public. His personal devotion to the Foundation has inspired many others.

Thank you, Tim, for all you do to help the veterans.

2012 Heroes

Cassie Schumacher

Cassie Schumacher is a remarkable individual. She is currently training for a 10-day, 3000-mile bicycle race across America. RAAM is widely characterized as the most grueling cycling event in the world.

Cassie is racing for veterans. Cassie frequently bikes for veterans! Her Wheels4Change organization is a subsidiary of Warriors Journey Home, Inc. which is a 501 (c)(3) Ohio nonprofit corporation.

Cassie recently organized Pedal for Heroes. This event was held at several venues in February. Funds raised were kept in the local municipalities to be given to local veteran organizations. The total funds raised were $16,000.00. 

Cassie’s father is a Vietnam Veteran who suffers from PTSD. Cassie has seen firsthand how the effects of war can affect an individual and/or a family’s life. Talking to Cassie you hear her passion and drive to help every veteran she possibly can. 

A few months ago, Cassie visited her father and began a documentary. Cassie’s father is no longer able to live by societal norms. He chooses instead a homeless lifestyle. Cassie will be showing her documentary on Saturday, May 14th at the Akron Public Library. 

Cassie has her master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. She feels that it is her responsibility to do all that she can to aid veterans and their families through a healing process. Cassie is indebted to those who have served and believes that those of us who have benefited from their sacrifices should help them to heal from the effects of war.

You have an opportunity to help Cassie support veterans. Please visit Cassie’s website at www.wheeIs4change.org.

Cassie, We Salute You!

Robert Vencl

Robert Vencl describes himself as an ordinary kind of guy. He is proud to be a homeowner and likes spending time in his yard. He enjoys working out. He is an avid cyclist and golfs, snowboards, and likes to travel.

Robert and his girlfriend also like to give back by participating in Pedal to the Point and miscellaneous Charitable Runs.

A 2002 graduate of Mentor High School and former wrestler, Robert volunteers his time to work with wrestlers at Madison High School. One of whom placed 5th in State this season.

About six years ago Robert joined both the Painesville Township Fire Department and the Willoughby Hills Fire Department as a part time firefighter. Four years ago, he became full time in Painesville Township and still works part time in Willoughby Hills. 

So why you ask is Robert being honored at the 2012 Andy Nowacki Gala? Simple. On November 19, 2011 a fire broke out at an apartment in Painesville. There were three firefighters at the station house that night. The rest of the crew along with surrounding stations had been dispatched already to another incident. 

Robert recalls that dispatch had little information to offer that evening. He was quite surprised when the truck turned the corner to see a two-story apartment complex with visible flames. As they exited the truck one, person assessed the building while another went to the pump. Robert began stretching the hose and stopped when he heard something. He began to search the windows for victims and found a woman banging on a window and screaming. Robert determined that this victim was directly above the fire which by now had completely engulfed the first floor. He had to act quickly as this victim was being overcome with smoke and heat.

Robert ran back to the truck and began moving the ladder towards the victim’s window. He used the ladder to break through the window. He first rescued a 13-year-old child, then a 2-year-old child, and finally the mother of the two children. All three victims were taken to the hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation.

All three lives were saved due to Robert Vencl’s quick thinking and action. Robert Vencl is a Hero. 

Robert, We Salute You!

Jon Gurry

Jon is proud to be an American. Jon served in the Marine Corps from 1972 to 1976. Later Jon joined the National Guard. He served in both the Gulf War and in Iraq.

Jon has also suffered a lot of loss and became very familiar with Hospice. Hospice cared for his father, father-in-law, and mother-in-law.

One day while attending St. Justin Martyr, Jon saw a display about the Peaceful and Proud Program.

Jon had a heart for veterans and an appreciation for Hospice. It wasn’t long before he met up with Debra Hagan and decided to become a volunteer for this honorable program. Jon said that after reading an article about how many WWII Veterans were dying each day, he knew that this was something he had to do. So, in 2009 Jon joined as a volunteer to “help out” with pinning ceremonies.

Jon said that his life has been touched by many of the people that he has met through the Peaceful and Proud. He had the ability to sit with a Russian War Veteran for almost a year. Even though this man did not speak English well, he wanted to talk to someone about his experiences in war. Jon was that man. Patient and kind. 

Jon is currently visiting with a 37-year-old through the Peaceful and Proud. This man was a Captain in the National Guard and served in Iraq in 2005 while Jon was there. They have much in common but again Jon is there to listen and help this young man through his journey. 

Jon said that not every veteran wants to discuss their experiences. He said he typically will ask them for personal advice, and they will perk right up. Not everyone wants to be recognized for serving their country. Jon understands and still lets them know that their service was appreciated.

Jon said that the most poignant of moments is when he salutes a dying soldier and they instinctively salute back.

The work Jon does as a volunteer through Hospice Peaceful and Proud is moving.

Jon, We Salute You!

2011 Heroes

Brian Springer

“Athletes suffer acute injury and succumb to illness on the field and are quite often whisked to the nearest emergency department. My passion is to smooth out the link.”

Little did Dr. Springer know that the words he spoke back in 2009 would come to fruition for him in August 2010. During a SWAT school exercise in London Ohio, Sgt. John Bechtel, an East Cleveland Police Officer collapsed on “the field” suffering cardiac arrest. Dr. Springer was there.

Dr. Springer performed CPR and used an AED to revive John. He flew with the life flight crew to continue caring for John. Dr. Springer’s ability to react quickly saved an important life that day.

Dr. Springer served in the Marine Corp and was deployed during Desert Storm from 1990 to 1991.

Dr. Springer is in the Department of Emergency Medicine as well as the Director of Tactical Emergency Medicine at Wright State University.

The Tactical Emergency Medicine division provides the highest quality preventive and interventional care to law enforcement agencies in both clinical and tactical settings. They create educational opportunities for law enforcement officers and lead the nation in determining and disseminating best evidence and practices for tactical medical education and clinical care.

Along with his wife Kimberly, they enjoy their family of three dogs and one cat. Dr. Springer enjoys motorcycles and bicycling.

Ray Stein

For anyone coming in contact with Ray, you will quickly find a humble but extraordinary individual. Ray retired twenty-one years ago after a successful career in Human Resources for notable area companies, Republic Steel and Stouffer Foods. 

Upon retiring Ray began to volunteer for the Emergency Hunger Center, was a Radio Reader for the Cleveland Sight Center, formed a Senior Group of Actors who performed to audiences in the greater Cleveland area, serves as Eucharistic Minister, and as a volunteer for Hospice of the Western Reserve. 

Ray is dedicated to the seriously ill veterans and their families. Ray volunteers twice per week at the Hospice House. He provides comfort to confused or agitated and restless patients. At times he sits vigilant during the final hours and distributes communion to the Catholic patients and visitors. As part of Hospice Peaceful and Proud Program, he recognizes the patient’s sacrifices as a veteran during a Veteran Pinning Ceremony. 

A veteran who served in the Unites States Army during the Korean War ,Ray was on the USSGYATT. The GYATT was a general-purpose destroyer.

Ray was previously awarded the Medical Mutual Honor for a Leading Volunteer in the State of Ohio.

Ray is widowed, has four grown daughters and seven grandchildren who all reside in the greater Cleveland area.

Scott Shannon

Scott Shannon has been involved in many facets of the Mentor Fire Department but his accomplishments in the area of Fire Investigations are what set him apart from the rest. Scott is a Certified Fire Investigator and organized the team of investigators that make up the Mentor Fire Department Fire Investigation Unit. Scott served as Chief Investigator.

Additionally, Scott has raised the bar by sending his team to various fire investigation courses, training programs and working to get them all nationally certified as Fire Investigators.

Through Scott’s diligence and training, several dangerous arsonists have been convicted. The City of Mentor and its surrounding communities are safer as a result.

Scott began his career in the Madison Fire District, went to the Beachwood Fire Department, finally landing in the Mentor Fire Department.

Scott reflects on his career by sharing a standout moment when a three-year-old girl had fallen through the plate glass of a storm door. The injury severed her brachial artery. She had lost so much blood that he was not able to get a pulse. His team was able to start an IV and transport her quickly to the hospital where she survived her injuries. 

Scott is retiring after twenty-nine years of service. He feels very blessed to have worked with so many great people over the years. Scott and his wife live in Madison and have two grown children and three grandchildren.

Brian Reardon

Brian Reardon received news that his twenty-seven-year-old niece needed a kidney transplant and was looking for a potential donor. Brian told his niece that she did not need to search at all and that he would donate a kidney to her. Brian had several weeks to think about his decision and the possible risks as well as the effect of those risks to his wife and three children. Brian, however, never gave it a second thought. He was a compatible donor and he was going through with the surgery.

On January 10, 2011 Brian donated a kidney to his niece. On February 27, 2011 Brian was back to work.

Brian is a full-time police officer in Bainbridge. He also teaches at Lakeland Community College in the Police Academy. Brian has always been focused on safety. He teaches Safety Town courses which educate elementary age children in bicycle and street safety. He teaches a women’s self-defense class. He trains police cadets who will serve to protect their communities. He also works with community policing through the Citizen’s Police Academy. 

The Citizen’s Police Academy teaches local business leaders and citizens through an eight-week course, about crime investigations, and how to store information and evidence. The course also allows ride alongs to give the students a broader sense of what is occurring in their community. The class then celebrates with a graduation.

We are fortunate to have such a caring and selfless individual in law enforcement.

Jaime Frankino

For anyone who has visited the Veteran’s Administration in Painesville, you may have encountered Jaime Frankino. Jaime is a dedicated nutritionist who helps veterans with dietary needs. Jaime’s specialty is with diabetic veterans.

Jaime completed her Master’s Program at Case Western Reserve with a focus on diabetes. She became a Certified Diabetic Educator. 

Jaime has a deep commitment to her patients and will spend as much time with them as they need. She believes in making a connection with each veteran, to gain their trust, and ultimately to help them be as physically healthy as they can.

In her spare time Jaime loves to golf and run. Recently engaged, Jaime will be spending time now planning her wedding for the spring of 2012.

2010 Heroes

Sgt. Matthew Byers

On August 8, 2009, Sgt Matthew Byers discovered a young male slumped over inside a parked vehicle at Wal Mart in Madison. The male was unconscious and not breathing. Byers took necessary life saving measures to establish and maintain an open airway until rescue personnel could arrive. The probability of the male dying without Byers intervention was very high. The Lake County Chiefs of Police Association awarded Byers with the Life Saving Medal. 

Sgt. Byers has been recognized previously for heroic efforts. The list is impressive and includes; 1996 Officer of the Year, Distinguished Service Award for disarming a suicidal male with a gun, Distinguished Service Award for disarming a suicidal male with a knife, Four separate awards from MADD for DUI arrest efforts, Recognition of Service from the Ohio Attorney General, Congressional Certificate for Recognition of Service, National Association of Police Officers awarded Sgt. Byers Officer of the Year for State of Ohio (awarded in Washington D.C. by Richard Belzer and Glen Russell), Lake County Blue Coats awarded Sgt. Byers Man of the Year, Medal of Honor awarded by the Lake County Chiefs of Police.

Sgt. Byers also teaches at Lakeland Community College in the Police Academy and has had the pleasure of working with recipients of the Andy Nowacki Scholarship.

We appreciate your service to the Madison community.

Jim Stary

Jim is a volunteer for Hospice of the Western Reserve. Jim also participates in the Peaceful and Proud program which brings together volunteers who are veterans, with hospice patients that are also veterans. This combination allows the patients to connect with someone that truly understands and empathizes with what the patient has experienced in their own lifetime.

Jim proudly served his country from 1966 to 1971 during the Vietnam War. He was in the Coast Guard and was stationed at Mackinaw Great Lakes. While there, Jim went to Hospital Core School.

Jim has helped many terminally ill veterans, some who want to leave a legacy to their families. He has done everything from helping a veteran build a birdhouse to leave his wife, to recording a veteran while he shares stories for his family, to pinning ceremonies where he recognizes the veteran for his service to country.

Jim became involved with hospice because his wife is a volunteer. Jim, we thank you for your countless hours of volunteerism. You are a great inspiration.

George Budzicki

George recently saved a three-year-old, who had stopped breathing, from choking on a hot dog. He was able to resuscitate the child during transport to the hospital. His wife, Blaire touchingly stated, “George came home and said, ‘We saved someone today.’ He was smiling, not crying. That was the day that I knew he really was a hero!”

George participated in Fire Explorers while a student at Eastlake North High School. He later went to Hocking College for EMT and Firefighting and then for Paramedic Training went to Lakeland Community College. 

George has worked as a paramedic for Hillcrest Ambulance and is now a Firefighter/EMT/Paramedic for three municipalities. He has been with the Mentor Fire Department for three years. George has been with the Kirtland Fire Department for two years, and the Madison Fire Department for one year.

George and his wife live in Willoughby with their fourteen-month old daughter.

Thank you for serving these three communities.

Battalion Chief Terry Szabo

Battalion Chief Terry Szabo has been a member of the Mentor Fire Department for the past 29 years. His experience has included service as a paramedic with Cleveland EMS. and a flight medic with the former University Air Care. He is currently serving as the E.M.S. coordinator for the Mentor Fire Department. He has been instrumental in providing protocol recommendations and development for the Lake Hospital Systems (now known as Lake Health). 

Terry was a trailblazer with implementing a 12 lead EKG system for use on Mentor rescue squads in the year 2000. This type of equipment was not a common part of emergency medical care on rescue squads.

The Mentor Firefighter and Paramedic Safety have improved as a result of his introduction to many new policies and procedures. His most recent accomplishment was with the Lake County Medical Incident Response Team. Battalion Chief Szabo coordinated the development of a response trailer that will be utilized throughout Lake County for mass casualty incidents. The trailer was designed to provide E.M.S. supplies and equipment to treat over one hundred patients.

We appreciate your foresight and desire to keep the Lake County residents safe.

Dan Vicorel & Jason Soca

Dan and Jason heard screams outside their Cleveland duplex. Upon further investigation they realized their neighbor’s home was on fire. Dan and Jason immediately went outside to see what they could do to assist.

Dan is a Firefighter in East Cleveland and knew the importance of getting in the home to search for people. He entered the smoke-filled home and with the smoke completely engulfing him, had to exit the house. Neighbors advised which room they thought the elderly occupant to be in.

With that information Dan along with Jason re-entered the home. They quickly located the occupant, and both carried her outside.

Dan has been a Paramedic and Firefighter for eight years and is a Certified Fire Instructor. He has received commendations from Cleveland Heights Fire Department for mutual aid in fighting a fire as well as resuscitation for a full arrest.

Jason Soca retired from the Marine Corp in 2002, after spending eight years in counter terrorism. Jason teaches self-defense and firearm safety. He currently works as a car salesman.

Together these men risked their lives to save another. We thank you for your selfless act of kindness.