Massive ceremony celebrates a year’s worth of St. Clair Shores Fire Department milestones

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 24, 2021

 Battalion Chief Matthew Zabel is pinned by his father during a June 10 promotion ceremony at the St. Clair Shores Fire Department.

Battalion Chief Matthew Zabel is pinned by his father during a June 10 promotion ceremony at the St. Clair Shores Fire Department.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

 Retiring Fire Marshal Scott Desmadryl pins newly promoted Fire Marshal Aaron Silorey.

Retiring Fire Marshal Scott Desmadryl pins newly promoted Fire Marshal Aaron Silorey.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

 Promoted Lieutenant Robert Cook signs paperwork after City Clerk Mary Kotowski administers the oath of office.

Promoted Lieutenant Robert Cook signs paperwork after City Clerk Mary Kotowski administers the oath of office.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — With the large bay doors open wide to let in the fresh air, friends, family and coworkers gathered to celebrate the retirements, promotions and new jobs of 23 people at the St. Clair Shores Fire Department.

Retirements celebrated were those of battalion chiefs Randy Vesper, Dave Salerno and John Harris; Fire Marshal Scott Desmadryl; and department secretary Cathy McCormick.

Fire Chief James Piper said the retirees were the ones who showed them all the way when they were just probationary firefighters, no matter what department they began their service in.

“A lot of these retirees have a huge impact on members of the department,” he said. “We never do anything just by ourselves.”

Department secretary McCormick is the heart of the department and the glue that holds them together, Piper said.

McCormick has worked for the city for 20 years, 18 of which were spent at the fire department.

“It’s just like a second home,” she said. “This is the best job I ever had.”

She plans to watch her grandson in her retirement.

Retiring Fire Marshal Desmadryl said he felt like he was leaving the department in good hands with the promotion of Fire Inspector Aaron Silorey to fire marshal.

“It’s been an honor,” said retiring Fire Marshal Desmadryl. “Your next fire marshal is absolutely fantastic.”

Silorey, who served as the fire inspector prior to his promotion to fire marshal, had Desmadryl affix his new badge to his uniform during the ceremony.

Piper said Salerno, who retired in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, helped keep the department running in the midst of all the chaos.

“COVID was crazy,” Piper said. “Chief Salerno ... helped make things run smooth, as much as it could during a global pandemic.”

It has been five months since Salerno officially retired, and he said he didn’t realize the significance of the feeling he got from putting on the uniform until he went to don it again for the ceremony.

“I didn’t realize what an honor this was until I put this back on after having it off for five months,” he said. “Thank you for being my partner. Thank you for being my friend.”

Promotions included that of Training Chief Kurt Grover, EMS Lt. Kevin Kraus, Fire Marshal Silorey, Battalion Chief Shawn Goldie, Battalion Chief Dan Geffert, Battalion Chief Matt Zabel, Lt. Geoffrey Schmueser, Lt. Rob Cook, Lt. Dan Sebastian, and driver engineers Eric Retzbach, Bryan Pittiglio and Mike DeCraene.

“These are important roles, and these are some dedicated individuals who are moving into those roles,” Piper said of the firefighters being promoted.

He said some of the men who were promoted without pomp and circumstance during the pandemic had already filled important roles, such as Kraus, who worked hard to make sure the department and the city had enough personal protective equipment at a time when it wasn’t always clear where enough could be acquired.

“Thanks for stepping up at the time,” Piper said. “Everyone in the department stepped up and did amazing work during COVID. It was an interesting and stressful time for everybody.”

The work of Kraus and Grover, Piper said, enabled him as chief to get a lot more done.

“I appreciate everything you did to make it a little easier for the department,” he said.

The department also celebrated new employees: firefighter medics Zane Coplai, Jamie Maier, Nick McCormick and Andrew Somes, and new department secretary Linda Fredal.

“This would normally be four different ceremonies,” Piper said. “This is a good opportunity to celebrate. We’re just super blessed and excited you’re all here.”

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