Griswold Fire Department honors long-time supporters with honorary memberships

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Fri., Nov. 22, 2013
Phil Yurechko, Jr., and Phil Yurechko, Sr., were presented with honorary memberships by the Griswold Fire Department at its Nov. 19 meeting. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Phil Yurechko, Jr., and Phil Yurechko, Sr., were presented with honorary memberships by the Griswold Fire Department at its Nov. 19 meeting. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Phil Yurechko, Jr., thought he was in on the whole surprise when he brought his father, Phil, Sr., to the Griswold Fire Department’s Station 55 for its monthly meeting Nov. 19. He had been sworn to secrecy about the honorary membership that his father was to receive for his years of assistance to the fire department. What Phil, Jr., didn’t know was that there was a second plaque with his name on it.

Both men were granted honorary membership in the Griswold VFD to recognize their decades of assistance, said department president Stan Stradczuk. “Your family has been paramount to this department,” he told the pair. “You’ve donated a lot of time, money and wreaths for the Santa Run.”

The Yurechko family’s Christmas tree farm not only provides the wreaths that adorn the firehouse and the trucks over the Christmas season, they also pitch in to fund the candy that the firefighters hand out to local children during the annual Santa Run. In fact, Phil, Sr. already had the check for $100 for this year’s candy in his pocket, ready to present to Stradczuk.

The elder Yurechko, now 90 years old, was an active member of the Griswold VFD himself some years back, but other obligations cut into his participation. When he was elected to the Board of Selectmen, a post he held for 16 years, he had to give up his fire department membership, he said.

Phil, Sr., said that the tree farm his family operates on Bitgood Road has been in business more than 50 years and was a charter member of the Connecticut Christmas Tree Growers Association, which was established in 1960. “But I was growing trees before that,” he said. “For some reason, that was what I liked to do, whether it was making money or not.” Phil, Sr., has since retired, but his son and his family maintain the seasonal business.

For a while, the family also operated a propane gas business and provided training for fire department members in proper handling of propane fires, said Stradczuk. “They were always there for us if we ever needed anything,” he said. “The candy for the Santa Run – they do that every year. They’re just great people.”

Phil, Sr., was also for many years an avid amateur pilot, flying his Cessna 170-B well into his 80s. “I miss flying. I love to fly,” he said. The plane is still in the family, though. “He’s got it now,” Phil, Sr. said of Phil, Jr., who has done some restoration work on the plane. “It looks better now than when I had it.”

Yurechko’s extended family, including his three daughters and their spouses, were also in on the surprise and came to celebrate. Patricia Yurechko Robin and her husband, Ron, made the trek from Plymouth, N.H. for the event. More than half a dozen retired members also came to honor the Yurechkos. “I’m glad we had some of the old-timers here – we don’t see them too often,” said Stradczuk. “I’m glad the whole family could make it for Phil, too.”


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