Edwardsville resident honored for 20 years of service with fire department
John Rogoza discovered his current profession unexpectedly, and almost by chance. But 20 years after being hired on as a full-time firefighter with the Edwardsville Fire Department, he says he’s thankful for the course his life has taken.
“I certainly didn’t think that my 20 years would get here as quick as it did, ‘cause it seems like it was just yesterday that I started,” Rogoza, who is now a captain with the fire department, said. “Time really flies here. For me it does.”
Rogoza was honored for 20 years of service during Monday night’s Edwardsville City Council meeting, but he’s actually been with the department for longer than that. Rogoza started as a volunteer firefighter in 1984 after he and his wife, Sheila Rogoza, moved to Edwardsville. Sheila Rogoza is a sergeant with the Edwardsville Police Department.
John Rogoza, who is originally from Kansas City, Kan., had been working in the shipping and receiving dock for a JC Penney since 1978 — a job he says he would have been happy to stay at indefinitely. But he says he also had a desire to integrate himself into his newfound community.
“I felt a need to … want to do something to help my community; to be a part of something,” John Rogoza said.
That’s when he discovered a potential new line of work he had never before considered. Rogoza decided to stop by the Edwardsville Fire Department one afternoon and, after talking to then-fire chief Cliff Lane, he decided to become a volunteer firefighter. He says he was hooked almost immediately.
“As soon as I kind of got into it and started learning things, I thought, ‘Well, this is really neat. I like this. I think I could do this as a profession’ … and the rest is history,” Rogoza said.
Still, it would be several years before Rogoza would come on as a full-time firefighter with the department — he wasn’t hired until December of 1990. And that was a good thing, Rogoza said, since the JC Penney he had left after more than 11 years to take the new job closed a year later.
Rogoza says what he liked about being a firefighter, what he still likes about being a firefighter, was that no day was ever the same.
“It’s not the every day job that you go to like the normal person works in an office,” Rogoza said. “And our job, there’s always challenges. You don’t know what the day’s going to bring from shift to shift. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Then there’ve been the advancement opportunities, which Rogoza said can’t be beat. Rogoza was promoted to lieutenant in 1994 and then captain in 2007.
He says he’s seen a lot in his 20-plus years as a fire fighter — even some “things that, you know, your normal person would not want to see,” as he said, referring to the sometimes severe nature of burns and injuries he has seen in the line of duty. He can’t remember the number of fire or emergency medical services calls he’s responded to, but one memory stands out: The day in 2002 or 2003 when heavy rainfall caused Kansas Highway 32 to flood. Rogoza waded through waist-high water to free a woman whose pickup truck had become trapped in the flood.
“And of course we had a life vest on and a rope and put a life vest on her,” Rogoza recalls. “I remember talking to her and telling her everything was going to be OK.”
It’s the people, Rogoza said, that have kept him at Edwardsville Fire Department for so long — both the people he serves in the community and those he works with on a daily basis, side by side.
“I have a good group of people, members of the department as a whole, that we all pretty much, we all strive for the same thing,” Rogoza said. “They … do the same thing I do. There’s no person here that’s better than anybody else. We all do the same job.”
Being a senior member of the fire department, Rogoza is thought of fondly as one of the “Old Heads” — a small group of fire fighters that have been with the department for at least two decades. But Rogoza says he’s certainly not old in spirit, energy or enthusiasm for the job.
“I still get excited sometimes like some of these other guys do,” he said.
As to whether he will go another 20 years, well, Rogoza is 51 and eligible for retirement in 2015.
“Will I retire? I don’t know,” he says with a laugh. “I haven’t really thought about it too much.”