Saying Goodbye--Joe's last gift

Yesterday I composed an entry about the passing of Joe Higgins, a former  fire chief and the OEM Coordinator for Woodcliff Lake. Let me step back and reflect on the past few days. I learned of Joe's passing via e-mail from Herb Kuehlke the current OEM Coordinator and Joe's friend for over forty years. Even though I knew Joe was sick, and the news wasn't a shock, I immediately hopped on my scooter and drove to Fuscos where George confirmed Joe had passed away Friday night. One of the things I vividly remember George saying was Joe passed away at home, surrounded  by his family. For some reason I felt the same way  as I did when my grandparents passed, after a long battle, he finally won the war. Joe was in Heaven now doing was he always did looked oout for those he cared about.
That evening I heard the announcement over the radio, it had finally sunk in. Being the popular fellow Joe was, Spearings Funeral held a wake both Tuesday and  yesterday with the mass today. My mother kindly suggested the wake might be too much and I  should just go to the mass. I kept my word but did a driveby yesterday in Park Ridge, kind of my way of saying goodbye. Of course I was spotted by everyone and even talked to Mike, his son who I went to school with, but kept my promise, I didn't go into the funeral home. I wanted to but I knew if I tried something might happen. I also knew i f I got dressed up yesterday it would have tipped my folks off.
This morning I awoke, took a shower and got ready. Since mom had a doctor's appointment she dropped me off at the church. I knew she wondered if I would be alright, but when she saw Mayor and Mrs Kettler (who happened to be my former CCD  Teacher) it made us both feel better. I accompanied the Kettlers into the church and sat down. From my seat I could see trucks from Woodcliff Lake, Montvale and Saddle River parked in the other lot. Soon the service began, Joe's brother Peter gave the perfect tribute.
After the service I stood in the doorway and watched as they loaded the casket onto the back of Montvale's antique engine. Just then Bruce, one of the ex-chiefs, gently tapped me on the shoulder. In a soft but authoritative voice he just said "Follow me". I wanted to tell him my folks  were expecting my call, but let him escort me to Engine 72 where the ex-chiefs were waiting. I didn't resist when Bruce helped me get into the engine. Nothing much was said when we drove from the church. Even less was said when we drove firehouse to the cemetery in Mahwah. Nothing needed to be said. Although I did manage to update my Facebook status so I could have proof this wasn't a daydream
I got home and went for my usual sandwich at Fusco's. Part of me was sad I lost another friend. Another part of me was grateful the chiefs knew how much Joe meant to me and that's why they did it. I thought about Joe, he was smiling down on me. RIP my friend

Click to hear a recording of Joe's last call


Passing of Joseph A Higgins, Jr. KC2LCX

 This is the e-mail I sent out to the bcraces Yahoogroup about Joe Higgins. I don't want to repeat myself but I will say I will always remember Joe for his radio knowledge and his dedicate to OEM and the fire department.

It is with deep regret I announce the passing of Joseph A. Higgins, Jr., KC2LCX, the former OEM Coordinator and former Fire Chief of Woodcliff Lake, NJ. Joe died early  Saturday morning after a long illness. Besides being a fire chief and OEM coordinator, he was a former chief of New Jersey Search and Rescue as well as an active member of New Jersey Elder Law Association and taught religious classes at Our Lady Mother of the Church here in Woodcliff Lake. His wife Josephine is active in the Tri-Boro Ambulance Corps. and is a former Councilwoman and  Mayor of Woodcliff Lake. On a personal note, Joe was not only a mentor, but a true friend whom I've known for over twenty-five years. I went to school with his son Michael. You always knew Joe was coming down the road by his white Jeep with antennas sticking out all over. In 2000 he appointed me Woodcliff Lake's first RACES Officer and I've had the pleasure of serving with him. I will always remember the conversations we had while driving to NJEMA dinners in Spotswood and conferences in Atlantic City.
Justin Mattes,KC2GIK
Woodcliff Lake RACES Officer


World CP Day

I have  noticed that a lot of the previous posts have stayed "drafts" for one reason or another but I feel this will be completed in one sitting, mainly because it is World CP Day. Although October is CP Awareness Month, yes we share it with Cancer Awareness Month. I have been reading CP blogs and posts this morning, especially Love That Max where Elen Seidman doesa wonderful job describing what it's like raising a son with CP. Man I have grinned and nodded more times while reading about Max's life than I'll ever admit on here. I sometimes find myself commenting "Wait until Max gets older...." Then I had a thought.
Those loyal readers remember when I did the Diversity Day up at the Branchville School in Connecticut where I talked to kids about it's like living with CP. I always wanted to do more of that but never really pursued it, although it  has crossed my mind from time to time

World CP Day raises awareness about people living with Cerebral Palsy but it also highlight peoples accomplishments like RJ Mitte of Breaking Bad. While there have been plenty of actors who have portrayed people with CP like Bill Porter in Door to Doonr and Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot RJ is the real deal., I also like how the writers wrote his part. Even though it's obvious he has CP in the show, he used crutches, it wasn't overplayed, very subtle.  I really hope I see him in other shows and movies.

Unlike the other "Awareness Days" (Cancer, AIDS, Diabetes, etc.) I feel more focus should be on prevention rather than cures,like highlighting medical malpractice, etc. A "cure" is fine and who knows what they'll come up with now that stem cell research is becoming more feasible by the day. However I constantly remind -people Cerebral Palsy isn't a disease. You can't "catch" it. People are "survivors", they learn how to cope and  that's about it

 So I take moment in the day to both remember what I have accomplished in my life and what goals I need to set for myself