The Montowese Volunteer Fire Company will soon be renamed in honor of one of the department’s former chiefs, John E. Obier Jr.
“Jack Obier was a man of vision and a man of integrity who devoted his life to enhancing the safety of the citizens of the town of North Haven and the safety, dignity, professionalism of North Haven professional and volunteer firefighters,” fire commissioner Peter Criscuolo said in a letter proposing the re-naming.
Obier served several decades as a firefighter in town, including as chief. He died in 1997, at 61.
Criscuolo formally requested the name change in a letter to the Board of Selectmen in March. During the board's June 6 meeting, the request was approved.
One of Obier's sons, Lt. David Obier, attended the meeting and expressed his gratitude to the board for approving the request.
“He put in a lot of years, died too young and I’m very grateful for your support,” he said.
David Obier and his brother Jeffrey followed in their father’s footsteps, joining the Montowese Volunteer Fire Company. Both now serve as lieutenants in North Haven.
“He really, really had a love for the fire department and he brought his children up the same way,” Criscuolo said.
Fire Chief Paul Januszewski said the honor is fitting for the former chief, who spent his entire, decorated career in North Haven.
Obier started as a volunteer firefighter at the Montowese company in 1954 and climbed the ranks to serve in many positions.
When the department decided to hire paid firefighters, Obier was part of the first class of pros and was later deputy chief and deputy fire marshal, serving from 1973 to 1983, before succeeding Chief John Rosadini.
Criscuolo, who first joined the board of fire commissioners during Obier’s term, said the late chief was about 25 years ahead of his time.
“When you stop and think about it, everything he said 25 years ago, we’re doing today,” Criscuolo said. Obier predicted development in town, specifically on Universal Drive, and seemed to be able to imagine what the fire department would look like decades down the road.
“He was very very smart … he taught me a lot, he really did,” Criscuolo said. “I enjoyed working with him.”
Criscuolo overlapped with Obier for a few years, and said Obier was always the person he went to for answers, and the person who could set him straight if needed.
Criscuolo said Obier was well-liked among the company and naming the station after him should send a message that people of his stature deserve to be acknowledged and remembered.
“I don’t think there’s anyone that had a bad word for Chief Obier,” Criscuolo said.
Obier also taught fire science as an adjunct professor at the University of New Haven and was a graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Officer program.
Among many earned awards and recognitions, Obier was named both Connecticut Firefighter of the Year and the Connecticut Public Educators Association’s Public Fire Educator of the Year. In 2016 he was posthumously inducted into the Connecticut Professional Firefighters Hall of Fame.
The Montowese Volunteer Fire Company is planning a ribbon cutting ceremony likely in August or September. The last time the Board of Selectmen named a building was in 2007, with the dedication of fire headquarters for former chief Rosadini.