On March 1, 1977, Joseph and Louise DiGiorgio sat around their kitchen table to discuss a pertinent situation arising within the Village of Mineola, their home for many years. Over the years, they watched as friends and neighbors required emergency medical assistance.
The ambulance that always came to the aid of these friends was either from the , or the Williston Park Fire Department. Joe and Louise could not understand why a community like Mineola did not have their own ambulance service.
The first step was to contact the , and inquire as to why there was no ambulance. The Mineola Fire Department explained that their mission was to respond to a multitude of emergencies, but not medical emergencies. Joe and Louise began to bring up the issue at monthly board meetings. Along the way, they met many wonderful people to join their cause, including members from the Strauss family, the Franz family, the Nedelka family, Patrick Tobin, Tom Eagan, Dennis Craine, the Morgans, and Joan Benatti.
The goal these citizens undertook was not an easy one. Joseph and Louise began to write letters and call everyone they could to generate the necessary financial support for this new organization. Along the way, various other members of the group began to file the necessary applications with the New York State Department of Health and Nassau County. On the last weekend in April 1979, a parade was held in Mineola to welcome the first ambulance of the (MVAC).
That first year, the department responded to over 300 calls for assistance within the Village of Mineola. Joe and Louise were not done. They continued to go door to door, write letters, and make phone calls. The newly formed MVAC was given a small space in the basement of the , along with room outside, where Joe built a carport to house the two ambulances.
Joe and Louise were never done; more phone calls, more door to door, and more letters, resulted in updated cardiac monitoring equipment, better supplies, all the while Joe was making most of the repairs to keep the two donated ambulances on the road. In 1984, Company No. 3 of the Mineola Fire Department had outgrown their current facility and the Village constructed a new firehouse on Elm Place. The old firehouse was made available to the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps, as the Corps celebrated 5 years on the road.
The Corps. grew as Joe and Louise continued on their campaign for the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps, attending every village event, serving as ambassadors for the Corps., recruiting members and securing financial donations.
In 2004, as the Corps was prepared to celebrate 25 years of response, sadly, Louise DiGiorgio passed away. It was a sad time for the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps., which now consisted of over 70 certified members, three certified advance life support ambulances, four emergency chief vehicles, and one emergency ambulance service vehicle or “fly car.”
Joseph DiGiorgio continued to garner support for the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps in every aspect of his life. In 2009, at the 30th Anniversary Dinner, the Corps. presented Joe with an honorary Chief badge, with the word “Founder” imprinted. Joe had that badge on him everywhere he went, and was more than proud to show it to every person he met.
Alas, on June 13, 2012, Joseph DiGiorgio passed away at the age of 91. His daughter, Joanne, was by his side and said he still had his MVAC Chief’s Badge on him.
Today, MVAC responds to well over 1,000 calls for assistance annually. The Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps. stands as a monument to the hard work and dedication of Joseph and Louise DiGiorgio, 35 years after that meeting around their kitchen table. Joseph and Louise will be missed by each and every member of the Corps., past and present. However, MVAC will continue to provide the same stellar services it has for over 30 years as a testament to Joseph and Louise DiGiorgio.
In addition to his daughter, DiGiorgio is survived by his brother Frances Marino, sister-in-laws Michela Nardi and Anne Marie LaGattuta and many nieces and nephews.
Visiting will be at the on June 14-15 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, June 16 at 9:45 a.m. at with entombment to follow at Holy Rood Cemetary.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs Medical Center-Northport, NY 11768.