The past 50 years have been some of the best of Joseph Primavera’s life, which he attributes in no smhonorary chiefall measure to the Freeport Fire Department’s The Wide Awake Engine Company No. 1. Now 73, the honorary chief, best known around the community as “Joe Prim,” is as involved in the department as ever. Though he doesn’t go on fire calls, as he did in his younger days, he still hangs around the firehouse and helps maintain it.
As far as Primavera is concerned, retirement from the department is the last thing on his mind — though he is retired from the U.S. Postal Service.
The Fire Department, he said, “is a part of who I am now.”
Primavera’s family moved to Freeport in the early 1900s from Brooklyn. After settling in the community, his father and uncles joined Wide Awake Engine Company No. 1. His family did not expect Joseph to join the department, but he said he knew he eventually would, though he initially had other plans. Before becoming a firefighter, he served in the U.S. Army, in the 101st Airborne Division, as a paratrooper during the Vietnam War era. Among his varied positions, he helped train officer cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Primavera returned to Freeport after his service. The year was 1968, and he was 23. He wasn’t much of a joiner, he admitted, but still, the Fire Department was calling.
Primavera’s fire training included classes to become an emergency medical technician. Soon he was helping Freeporters in need of medical help and battling fires. He married his high school sweetheart, Holly Bushell, and they had a daughter, Valerie. Their son, Joey, was born in 1985.
Primavera said the support that he received from his wife and children enabled him to serve in the Fire Department. Though his children grew up around the firehouse, they did not follow in their father’s footsteps.
Now Primavera is preparing himself for a new chapter of his life — becoming a grandfather. Joey recently announced that he and his wife were expecting a baby, and though Primavera said he was overjoyed by the news, he’s also a little anxious.
“I’m just nervous,” he said with a laugh. “It’s just the way I am, but to think about this little thing and all of the problems it could get into just makes me nervous. I guess this is what I have to do now.”
For five decades, the Fire Department has been a thread running through Primavera’s life, and now he wants to help the younger members become the best firefighters they can be.
“If I can support that,” he said, “I’m happy.”