By Maddy Vitale
John F. Kennedy was President. Gas was just a nickel. And Andy Cajka was a volunteer firefighter for the City of Somers Point, Council President Sean McGuigan said during a presentation at Thursday night’s City Council meeting.
Cajka, 72, a lifelong resident, is now in his 55th year of service to the city as a volunteer firefighter.
“There is nothing we can say to reach the level to thank you for serving your community for that long,” McGuigan said.
Mayor Jack Glasser thanked Cajka for his extraordinary service to the community and presented him with a proclamation.
The resolution reads: “Andy has been an active member of the Somers Point Volunteer Fire Company for 55 years. Andy has always been a strong and active member and has dedicated countless hours of time, energy and commitment to the Fire Company.”
Cajka, a carpenter by trade, who at one-time built boats, married and raised a son and daughter in Somers Point.
Firefighting, he said, was his calling.
“You just do it,” he remarked after the ceremony. “It is something that some people try and can’t do,” Cajka said. “For me, I have enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t know what else I would have wanted to do.”
He followed in his father’s footsteps, who also served as a volunteer firefighter.
Throughout the years there were many late-night fire calls. Nothing fazed Cajka, he said.
“I would just go out and do it,” Cajka said, adding that his family was very supportive of him. “You really have to want to do it. You really just can’t think about the possible consequences.”
Cajka said along the way he has met a lot of people in the community, has made a lot of friends and has had the satisfaction of the rewarding feeling you get when you help people.
“I’m going to start working on my next 55 years,” he said.
In addition to Cajka, two other members of the fire department were recognized for their service.
Grae Ayers, a full-time employee of the City’s Public Works Department, was selected as Firefighter of the Year for his service to Fire Company #1.
“We never get tired of saying this, the fire department in this town is an incredible asset and for you to rise among your company is an achievement,” McGuigan said.
Councilman Dennis Tapp also congratulated Ayers, adding that he sees he waves at him when he leaves his home.
“Is it true you own your own fire truck?” Tapp asked Ayers from the dais.
Ayers said he did.
Tapp remarked that that shows Ayers’ dedication.
Gerald Michaels was selected as Company Member of the Year.
McGuigan and council recognized Michaels for his efforts.
Also, on the agenda was guest speaker Victoria Leach, a dietician and nutritionist from Somers Point Shop Rite, who talked about the importance of health and wellness.
The mayor presented her and Nancy Mahoney, Somers Point Shop Rite manager, with a proclamation designating March as National Nutrition Month.
In the proclamation the mayor urged residents to join the campaign to become concerned about their nutrition and the health and nutrition of others.
Leach said after the presentation that the focus she tries to instill in people who wish to lose weight or just get healthier is to not over indulge.
“People can eat what they want in moderation. I wish people had more of an emphasis on nutrition,” Leach explained. “We can be unhealthy and skinny or healthy and overweight. Eating a well-balanced breakfast and getting a variety of foods is what we focus on.”