HAWTHORNE, N.J. (WABC) – A huge surprise celebrated two men in New Jersey on Wednesday night, a volunteer firefighter with more than 70 years of service and an emergency responder with 50 years of service.

Not much happens at Hawthorne Borough Council meetings most weeks.

Few people go to these events, but on Wednesday they are almost full.

Members of the Hawthorne Volunteer Fire Department dressed in full uniform and lined the aisles, all for a guy they see almost every day.

Ken Silvestri was honored at the meeting for working 71 years in an unpaid job.

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He started volunteering for the fire department when Harry Truman was president. He is now 92 years old and has great-great-grandchildren.

“The fire service was my life,” Silvestri said. “I thank you all for being here tonight.”

Hawthorne is such a place. Mark Veenema has been a volunteer as an EMT and paramedic for 50 years.

“A few years ago, EMS was just transportation. Get them to the hospital quickly,” Venema said.

The fire department put Silvestri, 92, front and center on Wednesday night. He still volunteers, shows up at fires and helps because he knows the fire department is the best.


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