Men recognized for 50 years of service with West View VFD
Where there's smoke or fire, there's John Hoellerman and Wayne Groskinsky — at least in West View.
On Nov. 14, both men were honored for their distinguished service to the West View Volunteer Fire Department by Mayor J.R. Henry and borough council. Both have been part of the department for at least 50 years.
Serving in many capacities associated with the department, they have spent decades doing what they love, all the while helping others.
West View fire Chief Mark Scheller, 56, of West View has worked with both men since he joined the department 38 years ago.
“They're 100 percent dedicated. To still have that dedication for 50 years, they're a cut above,” he said.
On the 102-person roster, which includes one woman, just 58 members are active. Groskinsky and Hoellerman are among them.
“I never thought I'd live this long,” Groskinsky, 77, said about reaching a milestone 50 years with the department.
He joined West View's Company No. 2 at age 27 and stayed, achieving the rank of first lieutenant and then serving as president for 17 years. Other appointments followed long after he quit chasing fires.
The worst one was more than 40 years ago at Rook's garage on Rochester Road in West View, he remembered.
“It was 15 degrees below zero, and the water froze on our bunker clothes. When the fire was goin', it was OK.”
Back at home, his uniform literally stood in the basement.
For the last seven years, he has been president of the West View Fire Police Unit, and he has been manager of the firefighters' West View Banquet Hall for 13 years.
“I'm still going and doing what I can do to help out,” said Groskinsky, who now lives in Ross Township. “As long as I can go, I'll keep going.”
It was the persistence of John Farley, former fire department chief, that got Hoellerman involved.
He had a part-time job at the former Pennzoil gas station at the corner of Highland Avenue and Perry Highway in West View, and Farley would come in to talk to him.
Hoellerman said he didn't want to join, but Farley kept asking.
For six years before his official membership date, he helped fight fires.
“(Farley) would swear me in on site,” said Hoellerman, now of Ross Township, who finally joined in 1962.
Having been a member of the Army medical corps, he was an asset. Brandt's Funeral Home had an ambulance the department used before the borough got its own vehicle, he said.
“Back then, I was like the EMS, but I couldn't do nothin,'” he said.
He rose through the ranks in Company No. 3 and also achieved the rank of first lieutenant. He worked in the borough's public-works department for 30 years — retiring as foreman — and answered fire calls during the work day. It's a practice the public-works department still follows. In those same years, he was president of the North Suburban Fire Company and delegate to the Western Pennsylvania Firemen's Association.
Hoellerman, 82, still participates in department activities but those on the less-hazardous side.
He remembers a night at West View Park's Dance-land as a most exciting policemen's ball.
“I was out on the dance floor with my wife, Helen, and she said ‘What's that red up there?' as she pointed to the air vent.”
He climbed the stairs to find the roof on fire.
Everyone got out safely, but Danceland burned to the ground in 1973 because of an electrical fire.
Hoellerman's granddaughter, Brittney Clifford, caught a bit of his spirit. A medical assistant in a doctor's office, she is a member of the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company.
“I like helping people,” Hoellerman said. “I guess it's in me.”
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.