By Jaime Thomas
There’s no question about it that Salvatore Rizzo liked to help out.
He was dedicated, handy and knew how to make people laugh. Still active in the fire department and the community, he died last week at his home. He was 77.
Originally from Hawthorne, N.Y., Rizzo started his 60 years of service as a fireman alongside his father, who was the local fire chief.
He eventually relocated to Washington County, where he joined in various fire departments at different times including North Granville, West Fort Ann and others. Most recently, he spent at least 25 years at the Granville Hook and Ladder.
Earlier this week, fellow firefighters remembered Rizzo as a faithful member who was always on hand.
“He was always here to help, and plus he was a great friend—him and me always hit it off good,” said Dan Roberts, assistant chief of Hook and Ladder.
“He was there to help any time we needed him. He was always willing to help, always around. He was a very dedicated member to the fire service—he had a desire to serve his community,” Chief Dan McClenning said.
In addition to the fire departments and the fire police, Rizzo was a charter member of the Granville Rescue Squad, which formed in January of 1967.
“He volunteered whenever he could, wherever he could. He was excellent, had a good personality, learned his first aid real well, was really good with patients and was a hard-charging rescue squad member. He went beyond duty; he would substitute for anybody,” said Ed Fish, a fellow charter member of the squad.
Outside of volunteering, Rizzo worked several jobs, including landscaping, Agway Feed and Grain and Evergreen Slate. He spent 41 of his years alongside his wife, Louise, and had four sons and three step-children.
Spending a lot of time at the Hook and Ladder, Rizzo was always working on a project, from building a showcase for trophies to helping at the coin drop.
“They say it’s in your blood, and maybe that’s true. Once you get in, you get to like everybody and then you want to be around them. It gets in your heart; you can’t get away from it,” said Deb Whiteley, department president.
She said members nicknamed Rizzo “Silly Sal” because he could always make them laugh, while the younger men called him “dad” or “pops.”
“His big thing was helping the community whenever he could. He cared about the community. Anywhere Sal could help out, he’d help out,” Roberts said. “He’s gonna be missed around here—that’s for sure.”
Leaving behind his hat to member Matt James and many stories and memories to the greater fire service community, Rizzo’s ashes were laid to rest following a full fireman’s funeral Tuesday.
Using two extended ladders from trucks from Granville and Queensbury, local firefighters suspended a 20 by 30-foot American flag over East Main Street as the funeral took place. Granville Fire Chief Ryan Pedone had to climb up the truck once before the procession to uncoil the windblown flag.
Members of the department said it had been a number of years since such a funeral took place in Granville, and Rizzo’s included so many trucks because he was active throughout several counties.
As fire chiefs and members stood by and saluted, trucks from a number of area departments paraded underneath. Locals stood on the street and watched trucks from Granville, North Granville, Middle Granville, West Pawlet, Fort Ann and others drive under the flag.
A fire truck driven by Whiteley carried Rizzo’s ashes as part of the processional, and another car carried his wife. The vehicles slowed long enough to hear a bagpiper play. The group then proceeded to Mettowee Valley Cemetery for the final ceremony.