Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

The last day of Deputy Chief John Kovalcik’s 28-year career at the Norwood Park Fire Department was marked by a farewell from the people of Norridge and Harwood Heights … on May 8 at his retirement party.

On May 26, Kovalcik will start a new job as an administrative analyst for the Des Plaines Fire Department — a position he took, he said, because he was ready for a new challenge. His new job in Des Plaines is strictly a desk job, he said, which requires mostly policies and procedures writing, along with budget management and project oversight.

“I’ll miss the family-like atmosphere we had here the most,” he said. “Being a fireman, you’re together for 24 hours straight sometimes, and you learn to depend and rely on each other for everything.”

The father of three daughters — Katie, 19, Ashley, 21, and Amy, 23 — has deep roots in Norwood Park Township. He went to Ridgewood High School, where he met his wife Laurie, and volunteered on the Pennoyer School Board for four years from 2007 to 2011.

“I’ve lived in this town since I was 2 years old, and I still live here — there’s a reason for that,” Kovalcik said. “The nice thing [about being a firefighter in Norwood Park] is that I was able to help people I knew personally — it was rewarding in that respect.”

Sometimes, the call of duty extended far beyond the township boundaries.

In 2001, it was the day after 9/11 when Kovalcik and a group of about 50 other firefighters volunteered to go to New York City. After working a 22-hour shift the night before, Kovalcik and his colleagues packed up their equipment and headed to Schiller Park, where other Chicago-area firefighters who had also volunteered to go had assembled.

The [trip] was canceled, however, because New York City was already inundated with thousands of other firefighters, mostly from the East Coast, who had already arrived at Ground Zero.

In 2005, Kovalcik spent two weeks in New Orleans with Norwood Park Fire Chief Kevin Stenson and now-retired fire fighter Carmen Rinaldi. The three traveled to Louisiana together to help with disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina. The three of them arrived three days after the hurricane hit, and spent several days outside camping in tents in dry patches of land with other fire fighters until a fire station opened up following flood-clean-up and the crews could move in.

Stationed in the French Quarter with about 20 other Illinois-area fire fighters for most of their time in Louisiana, Kovalcik and the crew spent most of their time fighting house fires and removing trees, he said.

Dan Johnson was sworn in as the new deputy fire chief of Norwood Park on May 11.

thanks Dan

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