One More Shift at the Firehouse
Lee Balistrieri proudly served as a firefighter in West Allis, Wisconsin for 31 years. Though Alzheimer's has taken much from him, a recent trip to the Brookfield Fire Station helped him reconnect with memories and rediscover his pride in his career saving lives.
As a West Allis Local 1004 Firefighter, Lee was part of the rescue squad and served as an equipment operator, which means he could drive any of the trucks. He would also give tours of the firehouse to local school children. Lee retired in 1984 after 31 years of service, but he was always a first responder at heart.
In September of 2015 Lee moved into the Silverado Brookfield community to receive the proper care for his Alzheimer’s. Living at the community allowed him to continue pursuing his passions — activities such as cooking and volunteering in the local community— but talk of his firefighting past always brought a special gleam to his eye. Earlier in 2016 Lee was placed on hospice, and the staff at the community decided to arrange something special for this man who had spent so much of his life selflessly helping others.
On Tuesday, May 17, 2016, Lee got to fulfill his dream to have one more shift as a firefighter. Accompanied by his wife, his children, Silverado staff and local reporters interested in his story, Lee visited the Brookfield fire station. Lee came alive again once in the presence of fire engines and firefighters, smiling wide while talking shop and getting answers to important questions like “who does the cooking?”
When asked about the visit, Lee shared that he was "ecstatic to see what a firehouse looks like today and to converse with people just like him!” His daughter also noted that he was in particularly good spirits during the visit, and was more conversational than he has been for some time.
Having completed his “shift,” Lee returned to the community with a newly-rejuvenated sense of pride and a satisfied smile.
See local news coverage of Lee’s visit here: