Wilton CERT heaps praise on retiring Majesky

WILTON — A virtual “retirement” party last week for CERT leader Jack Majesky could be likened to a mirror.

No matter how much praise was heaped on him for his decades of service to the town in one capacity or another, he always made sure it reflected back on those who worked by his side, first as an EMT, then as head of the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and then as one of the Community Emergency Response Team’s most visible — and audible — volunteers.

The party, which was postponed from a live event originally scheduled for March 25, shortly after Majesky stepped down as executive director, drew 35 participants, including fellow CERTS, as the team members are known; state, town and police officials; past and present members of the fire department, and the ambulance corps.

Second Selectwoman Lori Bufano read a citation that recognized not only his leadership positions but also his “infectious love of life and infectious love of his fellow human beings.”

Police Chief John Lynch presented Majesky with the department’s Blue Angel award, which is given to someone for their work in assisting police “in the prevention of crime, the apprehension of criminals or in the performance of a valuable community service to the town.”

Lynch made a point of saying Majesky had been serving the town “longer than some of my officers have been alive.”

Deputy Fire Chief Jim Blanchield told Majesky his “unbridled and genuine enthusiasm … reminds one that if something is to be said for loving what you do and letting people know that you love it, I think it’s an unsung leadership quality and you have it in droves and it’s never gone unnoticed.

“When a community is in crisis, it responds best to that crisis when we work together as a team,” he said, adding Wilton does that on a daily basis, whether it’s CERT, EMS, PD, fire, storms, vehicle accidents, looking for missing children, we work together, we work well together.”

“The first words typically out of your mouth are ‘what do you need’ and what can you do to help us.”

Blanchfield then presented Majesky with a citation which described him as one of the “finest ambassadors for community volunteerism” and said his “legacy of accomplishment is indelibly imprinted upon the Wilton emergency service landscape.”

The plaudits continued as state Sen. Will Haskell, D-26, recognized Wilton CERT’s “statewide reputation as being a model of excellence.” On behalf of state Reps. Gail Lavielle, R-143, and Tom O’Dea, R-125, he presented Majesky with an official citation from the General Assembly for his “leadership, vision and tireless efforts as executive director of Wilton CERT.”

At this point, Tom Gunther, who has taken over CERT as executive director, asked if they had managed yet to render Majesky speechless, to which he replied, “no way!”

Gunther recalled when he was new to Wilton he took CERT’s disaster preparedness training program. He recalled meeting “this slight gentleman with a huge personality and more enthusiasm than the Wilton football team.”

On behalf of CERT, Gunther presented Majesky with a clock and a newly designed CERT patch.

New Canaan CERT and Wilton CERT have always had a friendly rivalry and Wilton CERT’s early leaders, including Dick Ziegler, modeled the program here after New Canaan’s. Nancy Upton of New Canaan credited Majesky, who followed Ziegler, with “the foresight and creativity to develop a CERT team that would set the gold standard.”

T.G. Rawlins, who worked side by side with Majesky at CERT until his own retirement last year, recalled him as always being the “first or second one down at the firehouse” only to return home “at whatever hour.”

“We’re not saying goodbye,” he said, “we’re saying thanks.”

Giving credit

There were more testimonials until it was time for Majesky to hold court, when he said, “I’m near a loss for words, but I’m going to overcome it.”

He then began to thank the many people he credited with helping him make CERT a success.

One of the first was his OAO — “that’s Navy talk for one and only,” the veteran said — referring to his wife Doris, to whom he has been married for 57 years.

“I’m thanking her every single day. The rest goes to every single Wilton CERT,” he said. He also thanked Wilton first responders for the respect they show to the CERT volunteers.

The accolades he received, Majesky said, were simply a reflection of the respect and recognition the team has received.

“They were earned by what we did on the field, what our dedication was, what our responsiveness was, what our timeliness was, what our performance was,” he said.

Majesky recalled some of the highlights of his service from participating in a late-night search and rescue for what they presumed was a person who fell into the reservoir and turned out to be the emergency beacon of a watch at a factory in Wilton Center.

The team has found lost children at the town’s July 4th celebrations, directed traffic around a burning propane truck, and handed out food and water to residents out of power after major storms. The team also found the remains of a man, in Schenck’s Island, who had gone missing.

On a happier note, Majesky recalled the popularity of the town’s emergency shelter with at least one resident. He said, after one particular storm, a couple sought refuge at the shelter and after the third day a neighbor called to say they could return home. The husband left but the wife stayed. Majesky asked her why.

“Why would I leave?” he recalled her saying. “The food is great, we’ve had two birthday parties, you show a movie every night, the pizza truck is coming this evening. I’m having the time of my life.”

Former salesman

Majesky, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, spent his professional career in sales, eventually becoming sales manager for a flexible packaging company.

When he retired, he read about a hospital seeking volunteers, but all he could envision was Candy Stripers. He looked instead at Wilton’s ambulance corps and asked if they took volunteers at age 70. After getting a positive answer, he took the emergency medical technician course.

“I can’t tell you what interested me,” he said after his party. What he could say was “when you’re in the slot it is in your blood.”

Majesky eventually became president of the corps around 2000. After 9/11, FEMA urged towns and cities to be better prepared for disasters of all sorts, including terrorism.

Paul Hannah, who was first selectman at the time, arranged a meeting with Majesky as well as the chiefs of the fire and police departments. Hannah, Majesky recalled, looked to the elected constables and so Ziegler took a course offered by New Canaan CERT.

Ziegler ran CERT for two years, Majesky said, adding he joined in 2005 or 2006.

During the online gathering, Majesky spoke directly to Bufano, Lynch, Blanchfield, and Brian McDermott of the ambulance corps, telling them they had nothing to worry about regarding CERT’s new leadership.

“I’ve been watching the new crew like a hawk. We’ve been followed by a team of professionals,” he said, referring to himself and Rawlins. To Rawlins, he said, “They’re taking it up a couple of notches of what we did.”