ROXBURY, NJ – The Roxbury Rotary Club today honored 91-year-old Roxbury firefighter Louis Bizzari for his lifetime of service to the community by presenting him with one of the organization's most important awards.
The club named the Ledgewood resident a Paul Harris Fellow, an award that bears the name of the first president of Rotary International.
“Traditionally, the Paul Harris Fellow award has been given primarily to Rotarians who have done outstanding work on behalf of Rotary,” said Roxbury Rotarian Donald Schuld in presenting the award to Bizzari, who is not a member of the club. “But, from time to time - in this town and in this club - we’ve chosen to present the Paul Harris award to a Roxbury citizen who has been outstanding … both in business and in their personal lives.”
Schuld said the Paul Harris Fellow award is given “in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given in the furtherance of better understanding and furthering relations among people of the world.”
Many Decades of Community Involvement
Bizzari is Roxbury’s longest-serving firefighter. The township honored him in May, celebrating his 70th year with the department by installing a sign bearing his name – called a street blade – on Mt. Arlington Road near his home.
Bizzari fought in the Korean War and received a Bronze Star. He served for many years as the Ledgewood Post Office postmaster and he’s held many positions in the fire department over the years, including chief.
Bizzari, who also served as a fire marshal for Roxbury for 25 years, was named Fireman of the Year by the New Jersey State Exempt Firemans’ Association in 2008.
The spry, humorous and reflective nonagenarian thanked the Rotarians for the honor and also thanked his wife, Rose, who attended the ceremony.
“Thanks to everyone here for inviting me to come here and presenting this award to me,” he said. “I was born 1928. As you can tell, I’m 91 years old.”
That comment drew some disagreement from the Rotarians as many found it hard to believe, given Bizzari’s wit and energy.
Bizzari said his years of serving as referee for soccer and umpire for softball might have something to do with his good health. Officiating soccer involved lots of running up and down fields, he noted.
As for his decades of fire service involvement, Bizzari said it’s something that captivated him from the time he was a youngster.
“I lived about 100 yards from the firehouse when I was nine or 10 years old,” he said. “I used to go over there and help them wash the truck … and then they used to give me a ride. It seemed that it got into my blood and as soon as I was 21 I joined. Now here I am, after 70 years.”