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Conn. firefighters deliver 800-pound piano to veterans home

Middletown firefighters came to rescue for a delivery to The Shepherd Home for veterans

By Cassandra Day
Journal Inquirer

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — Eight firefighters recently helped rescue the efforts of a local charitable group by moving an 800-pound piano to the veterans home on Bow Lane .

Kathleen Didato, project manager for Middletown-based Altrusa International of Central Connecticut, learned about Bob Herron’s search for a permanent home for his late family’s $8,000 piano after her daughter saw a social media post.

The Shepherd Home for Veterans, located on the campus of Connecticut Valley Hospital at 112 Bow Lane, was willing to take the instrument. The home’s circa 1925 Colonial Revival building was meticulously restored to its original glory over six years as part of a $8.5 million project. Run by the Columbus House of New Haven, the 32-room facility opened in May 2019.

While a home was found for the piano, getting it to the site wasn’t easy, Didato said.

Herron told Didato he was bringing two men but would need two more to move the piano. So, she contacted South Fire District Commission Chairwoman Deb Kleckowski to inquire about possible assistance.

Didato then spoke with Fire Chief James Trzaski, who said he’d be happy to send over eight personnel.

“I laughed and told him I only need two men,” she said.

However, eight sets of muscles proved to be the trick to completing the challenging task. In all, 16 people pitched in on the April 13 move, she said. Firefighters involved in the project were Trzaski, Capt. Wade Moss, Lt. Owen Moss, Terence Keenan, Clifton Seifert, Jason Hurlbut, Stephen Tyrseck and Matthew Pantera.

Didato said that as fire personnel carried in the upright, Shepherd Home’s veteran resident entertainer, Charles Thomas, could not have been more excited about having a better piano at the home.

“Charles, who was watching all this, was quiet,” Didato said. “He was pretty awed. He stood back and his hand was on his chin. He couldn’t believe that this was happening.”

Firefighters immediately felt the gratitude once the job was done, Trzaski said.

“As soon as they rolled that piano out, the gentleman jumped on and started playing, and our guys were having a great time with them,” he said.

Trzaski said helping people above and beyond the typical duties of South Fire District personnel is part of a day’s work.

“It’s very rare that we say no to any organization that may need help,” he said. “You start to enhance these relationships that grow, and then you start to collaborate.”

Former fire marshal and veteran, the late Steve Krol, fostered a relationship between the district and local veterans, the chief said. “It became a homegrown relationship with the fire service helping out the veterans at the Shepherd Home, as they do with veterans around town.

“Whatever the need, we’d be there for them,” Trzaski said.

Crews often help out at State Veterans Cemetery events, such as flag laying and removal, and Wreaths Across America, Trzaski said. “All this comes as second nature because when you look at forming a partnership like that, there’s a lot of similarities between veterans and the fire service — public service.”

It’s not uncommon for firefighters to visit the senior center, for example, to enjoy a cup of coffee with members, Trzaski said. “It goes much further than that emergency call. If they, unfortunately, need us for an emergency, there’s already that level of comfort that has developed.”

Didato is thrilled with how everything worked out. “Sometimes everything aligns, and good things happen,” she said.

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