Photo by Bob Oliver
Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council Ritual Team members Lenny Pitek (left), Bob Dixon, Tim Pattison, John Young, Tom Houle and Pete Borella fire volleys in tribute to former Dearborn Fire Chief, City Councilman and state Rep. Gino Polidori outside of the mausoleum at Saint Hedwig Cemetery in Dearborn Heights Friday. Polidori, 72, passed away in Dearborn Jan. 26.
“Chief Polidori hired me in 1984 and always supported me in my career advancements. I will always be indebted to him for giving me an opportunity to pursue the fire service which has led me to almost 30 years of a wonderful profession. My condolences to his family.”
— Nazih Hazime
Fire Chief, Verde Valley (Arizona) Fire Department
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Gino Polidori, retired fire chief of the city of Dearborn.I worked for him for a number of years, as a firefighter and dealt with him as a politician for several years after his retirement as both union president and as a chief officer in Dearborn. To my knowledge, there is no fire chief or Firefighter in southeast Michigan that has served the community in as many ways (chief, councilman, state representative, Goodfellows, etc.) or for as long as Chief Polidori, making him in my mind the most civically dedicated fire chief I have met.”
— Dean R. Creech
Fire Chief, South Lane County (Oregon) Fire & Rescue
Former Dearborn firefighter
DEARBORN – Funeral services were held Jan. 31 for Gino Polidori, who served as a city councilman, a state representative and the city’s longtime fire chief.
Polidori died Jan. 26 in Dearborn. He was 72.
At 32 years old when he was sworn in Dec. 27, 1973, Polidori was the youngest person to be appointed Dearborn fire chief. He also became the longest serving fire chief when he retired June 25, 1996 having served under Mayors Orville Hubbard, John O’Reilly Sr. and Michael Guido.
Following his departure from the Fire Department, Polidori was elected to the Dearborn City Council, where he served from 1997 to 2004. He went on to win a seat as Dearborn’s state representative, where served in the House of Representatives for three terms, from 2004 to 2010.
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. remembered Polidori for his dedication to Dearborn.
“He was a consummate public servant his whole life, throughout his fire career, his elected offices, his charitable work, and his contributions even after he ‘retired,’” he said. “He was always determined to do his best for Dearborn.”
One of his lasting impacts was a bill he sponsored as a state representative that gave funeral homes the right to properly bury ashes of veterans who died without resources, friends or family, and remained in the custody of the funeral homes.
Polidori, along with the bill co-sponsor, state Rep. Kenneth Kurtz (R-58thDistrict), created a process to allow for their burial and ensure that they would not be forgotten.
O’Reilly noted the impact of the law Polidori helped to create.
“The law went into effect in 2010 and since then, our Dearborn veterans have spent hours locating cremains, confirming eligibility for veterans’ burial,” he said. “At our Memorial Day parade and service, our local veterans give them the tribute they deserve. That wouldn’t have happened without Gino.”
Polidori, a lifelong Dearborn resident, was born July 23, 1941. He attended Miller Elementary, Woodworth Junior High and graduated from Fordson High School in 1960.
Well known in the community even as a youngster, Polidori was elected Miller playground’s “mayor” during the Recreation Department’s 1954 city-wide “Citizenship Week” program. In high school he was a star football player.
Polidori was 19 when he first began working for the city in the Recreation Department. In 1967, he started his career as a firefighter. In 1973, Hubbard promoted Polidori to fire chief from the rank of firefighter II.
Polidori, a proponent of continuing education, took classes at Henry Ford Community College and Eastern Michigan University.
He earned certification in Fire Science from Macomb Community College and certification as a Fire Officer I and II from Michigan State Fire Fighter Training Council.
Polidori became the first person to graduate from Wayne State University with a bachelor’s degree of general studies in fire science.
The bachelor’s degree program for firefighters was one which Polidori had helped establish previously when he was a member of the Fire Science Advisory Board of Wayne’s College of Lifelong Learning.
Polidori was vice president (1976) and president (1977) of the Western Wayne County Mutual Aid Pact Association. He was also vice president (1981) and president (1982) of the Southeastern Michigan Fire Chiefs Association, president of Michigan Fire Chiefs Association (1987), and was appointed by Gov. James Blanchard to the State Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Commission (1988).
In his long career, Polidori was on numerous regional and state committees and belonged to the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Michigan Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators, the National Fire Protection Association and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.
His commitment to veterans began when he served in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1966 during the Vietnam War era. While serving as state representative, he was chairman of the Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee in the House.
Polidori was both a trustee and 2014 commander-elect of the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council, as well as a member of the American Legion Fort Dearborn Post 364, VVA James L. Huard Chapter 267 and VFW 2107.
“Our determination to assist veterans was made stronger by Gino who always found solutions and did so with an open hand, calm spirit and quick smile. Many of us are grieving his loss,” said Nancy Dlugokenski, 2014 Dearborn Allied War Veterans commander.
Polidori’s impact was felt throughout Dearborn. Leadership in civic and community organizations included the Dearborn Goodfellows, Smoke on the Grill, Italian American Fraternal Club, Dearborn Pioneers Club, the Fordson Varsity Alumni Club, Dearborn Democratic Club, and the Knights of Columbus Fr. Patrick O’Kelley Council No. 3860. In addition, Polidori was active in promoting businesses in the east and west downtowns.
While a councilman, Polidori was proud that he was a Michigan Municipal League Regional Officer from 2002 to 2003 and earned a Level One: Education Award and Level 2: Leadership Award from the MML’s Elected Officials Academy in 2002.
In 1989, Polidori received the Detroit College of Business Community Service Award. In 1993 he was presented the Edgar A. Guest Masonic Award for Community Service by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons – Dearborn, the first fire chief in Michigan to receive the award.
Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray remembered Polidori.
“He was always very proud of this department and he looked back on his time here with happiness. He was proud of his accomplishments.”
Polidori leaves his wife, Betty; and children Gino Jr. (Stephenie), Laura, and Rita (Jeff) Stergalas; five grandchildren; brothers Anthony (Fran) and Raymond (Kathy); and his mother, Nellie.
Polidori layed in-state Jan. 31 at St. Barbara’s Parish, 13534 Colson. A mass followed.
Gravesite ceremonies at St. Hedwig Cemetery in Dearborn Heights took place following the mass. The Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council performed a 21-gun salute.