Tag Archives: Joe Valiante

Joe Valiante’s Badge, George Bush’s Library

Joe Valiante spent 35 years with the Westport Fire Department. He fought some of the town’s toughest fires, and rose through the ranks to become assistant chief.

When he was not working, the 1961 Staples High School graduate rode with New York City’s Rescue 1. Based on 43rd Street near the Intrepid, the elite company faces situations seldom seen in Westport.

But nothing could have prepared them for September 11, 2001.

The next day, Valiante rode with them to the still-smoldering World Trade Center. For a week he worked the bucket brigade, hauling material from the site.

Joe Valiante (center, in white) working at Ground Zero.

Valiante was there 4 days later, when President Bush addressed the volunteers through a bullhorn.

Valiante was back a year later too, on the 1st anniversary of 9/11. In fact, he was in the honor guard (with fellow local firefighter Todd Denke). After the ceremony, Bush stopped to chat.

Joe Valiante and George W. Bush, on the 1st anniversary of 9/11. Just before the photographer took this photo, a Secret Service agent diverted the president’s attention.

Valiante then gave the president his Westport assistant fire chief badge.

The next year, Valiante retired. From time to time, he wondered what became of his gift.

Joe Valiante’s Westport Fire Department badge.

Last January, Valiante took his grandson to Trump Tower. They watched a parade of famous people — Ben Carson, Kellyanne Conway, Senator Joe Manchin and others — head through the lobby to meet the president-elect.

Fox News correspondent John Roberts was there as well. Valiante asked if he knew what happens to the gifts people give to presidents. Roberts told him to contact the George W. Bush Presidential Library, at Southern Methodist University.

Valiante emailed the curator. Then he forgot about it.

A month ago, a library official got back to Valiante. She knew exactly where his Westport badge was.

It’s in the permanent collection.

Joe Valiante has not been down to Dallas to see it. But he doesn’t have to.

Just knowing it’s there makes him proud.

The front page of the New York Post on September 12, 2002. Joe Valiante (white hat) is in the lower right corner.

 

Joe Valiante: Taxing Volunteer Work

The Staples High School 1961 yearbook listed 2 goals for senior Joe Valiante. He wanted to be an accountant. And he wanted a hole-in-one.

He got the ace.

He also took accounting courses at the University of Miami. But he left before earning his degree.

So the native Westporter spent 5 years working for Connecticut National Bank.

Joe Valiante's shirt honors 2 of his passions: the Fire Department and golf.

Joe Valiante’s shirt honors 2 of his passions: the Fire Department and golf.

In 1968 he joined the Westport Fire Department. For 35 years he worked his way up, from firefighter to lieutenant, then captain and assistant chief. He also earned an associate’s degree in fire science from Norwalk State Technical College.

Valiante fought some of Westport’s biggest fires: Klaff’s. Westport Hardware. Sherwood Square (twice). The bowling alley.

Before retiring, he saw an ad for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Serving low- and middle-income people, it seemed like the perfect way to use his accounting talents.

Valiante underwent rigorous training. (He re-trains every year.) He signed a waiver, saying he would accept nothing for his work — no money, no gifts.

Then he went to work.

Each year — 6 days a week, from February 1 through April 15 — Valiante prepares returns. On Wednesdays he’s at the Senior Center. He splits the other days between the Fairfield and Norwalk libraries, and Norwalk Senior Center.

The Westport Senior Center offers an excellent free tax program.

The Westport Senior Center offers an excellent free tax program.

This year, he did 728 returns. That’s the most of any volunteer, for the past 10 years.

Some of his clients are elderly. Some are low-income. At the libraries, he sees anyone.

He also does pro bono work for the staff at Commuter Coffee. He did the wait staff at Mario’s too, until it closed.

Many of the men and women at the senior centers and libraries are repeat clients. Each year, they request Valiante by name.

It’s an enormous amount of work — with absolutely no pay. “Thank you is enough,” he says.

So why does he do it?

“I want to give something back,” Valiante says. “I enjoy it. I’ll go anywhere to help.”

Tax forms can be daunting for anyone.

Tax forms can be daunting for anyone.

“Besides, the people are so appreciative. And these are people who really need help. An accounting firm would charge them at least $300.”

So why is “06880” profiling a tax specialist in July?

Because Valiante is still doing returns. “There are a lot of extensions,” he explains.

Does he get an extension? You know — the cobbler’s children, and all.

Nope.

“My taxes are done by the end of February,” Valiante says proudly.

What A Way To Start The Day

Westport firefighters don’t look for glory. They just do their job — and they do it very, very well.

Joe Valiante is retired, after 35 years of service. But the native Westporter continues to help.

Joe Valiante

Joe Valiante

On Wednesday morning he sat in the Commuter Coffee Shop, waiting for his wife and grandchild.

A customer abruptly went outside. His wife followed.

Then she raced back in, asking if anyone knew the Heimlich maneuver.

Joe gave a few quick thrusts, and dislodged a large piece of a roll.

The man and his wife thanked Joe. He went back inside. His wife and grandchild arrived.

“It was a good way to start the day,” Joe says simply.

No. It was a great, life-saving way.