Honoring citizenship

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Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, left, presents the annual Franklin Johnson Sr. Citizenship Award to John DeBisschop during a breakfast Nov. 12 at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant. –RA ARCHIVE
Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, left, presents the annual Franklin Johnson Sr. Citizenship Award to John DeBisschop during a breakfast Nov. 12 at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — There is a lot of discussion on social media and in general conversation about what is wrong with the country, the state of Connecticut and the Borough of Naugatuck.

That’s according to Mayor Robert Mezzo, who also said that if anyone wants to know what’s right about Naugatuck and about selfless Connecticut residents and Americans, they need to look no further than John DeBisschop.

DeBisschop, 40, is a lieutenant in the Naugatuck Fire Department and also the chairman of the Naugatuck Veterans’ Council. He is a tireless volunteer who works for the betterment of the community, Mezzo said.

For his selflessness, DeBisschop was honored in front of more than 100 friends and family members at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant Nov. 13 with the annual Franklin Johnson Sr. Citizenship Award. The award is given every year to someone whose dedication to the people of Naugatuck makes the community a better place.

Johnson, who died in 2010, was DeBisschop’s mentor. DeBisschop said he wanted to get involved in the American Legion while he was still active in the Navy and reached out to Johnson.

“Frank kind of took me under his wing,” he said.

As Johnson became older, he started to turn over some of the duties he had been involved with over the years, such as organizing the Memorial Day Parade, to others like DeBisschop.

Currently, DeBisschop is active in planning the Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, placing flags on the grave sites of every American veteran in Naugatuck and bringing an honor guard to the funeral services of local veterans. All of those duties were orchestrated largely by Johnson for several years.

DeBisschop is involved in many local veterans’ organizations, such as the American Legion Post No. 17, for which the event raised more than $1,000. He’s also involved with local Scouts and the National Ski Patrol. He and his wife JoAnn, who also volunteers at many functions with him, have four young children, including their son James and triplets Jeffrey, Jack and John.

DeBisschop said he became involved with several volunteer groups simply because they needed someone to step up. He was willing to do that.

“I was born and raised in Naugatuck. The only time I left was to join the military,” he said. “And when I came back, the community lured me back in. I’ve loved it ever since.”