NAUGATUCK — During’s first few months as a volunteer firefighter, two children died in a house fire on Melbourne Court in Naugatuck.
That was in 1954. Gaspar was in his early 20s. He had recently become involved in firefighting after friends told him it was fun.
He had barely learned the basics of firefighting. He certainly wasn’t prepared for death, especially when the victims were so young. But he wasn’t deterred.
“It was at that point when I realized what firefighting was,” said Gaspar, who was manning a fire hydrant during the Melbourne Court fire. “I knew then that I needed to help people.”
That’s exactly what he did for the next 60 years. Gaspar, now 83, became a career firefighter and moved up the ranks to become chief of the Naugatuck Fire Department, a position he held for 12 years before retiring in 1988. Through the years, he has served on several organizations that benefit the firefighting profession, including as past president of the Connecticut Fire Chief’s Association and as a legislative representative to the Connecticut State Firemen’s Association, now called the Connecticut State Firefighters Association, or CSFA.
Now, Gaspar, who lives in Naugatuck, will join the ranks of elite firefighters in the state: he will be inducted into the CSFA Hall of Fame. The award recognizes firefighters who have served above and beyond normal expectations over an extended period. The recipients shall have demonstrated leadership and shown themselves to be a motivating force for the betterment of the fire service throughout the state and country, according to the CSFA website.
Gaspar will be honored during a dinner ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. April 9 at the Aqua Turf in Southington. For tickets, call the CSFA Office at (860) 423-5799.
Thirteen people will be inducted, including four posthumously. Richard H. Nichol of Middlebury and Charles M. Stankye III of Derby are the other two local recipients. George N. Koser, a deceased Litchfield firefighter, will be inducted posthumously.
Former Naugatuck Fire Chief Kerry Flaherty nominated Gaspar for the award. Before then, Gaspar said he didn’t know there was a Hall of Fame for firefighters.
Gaspar said he’s honored by the award. He certainly will have a great feeling when his name is called on April 9. But the best feeling he’s had is being able to help people all these years. It’s something he still does on a regular basis.
The other day, he said, he was shopping at Big Y World Class Market. A man in the parking lot couldn’t get into his car because another vehicle had parked too close, Gaspar explained.
“I asked him if he wanted help, and then I squeezed my way in, slid under the steering wheel and drove his car out so he could get in,” he said. “The guy was so surprised. You know what he said to me? He said, ‘I didn’t know there were still people like you around.’ That’s a good feeling.”