Volunteer firefighter for 49 years

Schoenrock receives top UNICO honor

Close to 100 people gathered at La Reggia for UNICO’S ninth annual Citizen of the Year dinner on Nov. 4 in recognition of Fire Chief George Schoenrock. The audience was filled with past honorees, council members, family, friends, and supporters enjoying dinner and dancing to pay tribute to a man who has served as a volunteer firefighter for 49 years.
The Secaucus UNICO chapter is the fourth largest in the country with 115 members. Members are comprised of people who are either Italian or married to an Italian. Associate members can be of any ethnic or cultural background but have no voting power and cannot hold office.

A unifying figure

“UNICO is unity,” said Debbie Santoro, UNICO president, during her remarks. “Chief Schoenrock unites people as a fireman…He is always there for his neighbors.”
“Service above self is our motto,” said Joseph Marra, UNICO third vice president and dinner co-chair. “[Chief Schoenrock] exemplifies that.”
Schoenrock thanked everyone, UNICO, the selection committee, and his family at the beginning of his remarks.

“When you talk about a dedicated volunteer, there is no one more dedicated.” – Mayor Michael Gonnelli.
“It is a great honor,” he said. “[This is] a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be honored by [UNICO].” He told his family he appreciated their support.
Schoenrock spoke about his service as a volunteer firefighter and said that the department has responded to 700 calls throughout the year.
“The Secaucus Fire Department is one of the best in New Jersey,” said Schoenrock. “We’re here to serve you every day.”
Schoenrock did not break from his duties as a firefighter during his acceptance speech, taking the opportunity to remind everyone to check their smoke detectors in their homes.

Serving as a role model

Schoenrock’s son Dennis, who has served as a firefighter alongside his father, congratulated George and spoke about him as an inspirational figure. “Everything he taught me, I carried through my entire life,” he said.
“When you talk about a dedicated volunteer, there is no one more dedicated,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. He said that Schoenrock is always the first voice a volunteer hears on the radio when there is a call.
During the celebratory toast, Dinner Co-Chair Ed Rucki said there was no better way “to honor service of 49 years.”
“George is unbelievable,” said Dora Marra, a Board of Education trustee. She said Schoenrock responded to a call at Marra Drug Store an hour before his own awards dinner. “It doesn’t get better than that!”
Schoenrock has no immediate plans to retire from his duties as a volunteer firefighter as he enters his 50th year. He said that he is committed to “keeping the community safe.”
Past citizens of the year have included former library director Kathy Steffens, former Mayor Paul Amico, Mayor Gonnelli, Michael, Girard, and Angelo Marra, former superintendent Gus Scerbo, Frank Pinto, David Toma, school principals Fred Ponti, Deidre Ertel, Pat Cocucci, and Pat Impreveduto, and business owner Steve Natoli.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at afernandez@hudsonreporter.com.

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