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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Former Fire Chief Domenico mourned

Was leader of volunteer fire department

Frank Domenico was a leader at the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Department. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—The town mourned the passing of former Hammonton Volunteer Fire Department Chief and current 1st Lieutenant Frank J. “Schooner” Domenico Jr., 61, of Hammonton, who died peacefully surrounded by his family and friends on July 4 at Samaritan Hospice in Voorhees after a yearlong battle with cancer.

His obituary said, “Everyone who knew and loved Schooner knows that he was the strongest man and he fought with all of his might, yet even Superman couldn’t defeat this aggressive cancer.” 

According to his obituary, Domenico was born and raised in Hammonton and was a graduate of St. Joseph High School. After high school, he went on to join his father at the Modern Clothing Factory. When the garment industry was sent overseas, he joined the town of Hammonton in 1993 as the first fire official on record, his obituary said.

Domenico later assumed the position of construction official when his mentor and “partner in crime” John Aloisio retired, his obituary said. The obituary said Domenico just recently retired from the job he loved and dedicated his time in January 2020 to enjoy time with his beloved family. 

In 1981, Domenico became a member of the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1. He served many roles ranging from lieutenant, captain and chief during his 39 years in the department. Firefighting was his passion. He was an outstanding firefighter and took pride in his department. He was a great role model and mentor to those who shared his passion, his obituary said.

Fellow members of the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Department recalled Domenico’s service to the town as a firefighter, an officer and a chief. 

“We’ve been very close friends for a very long time. He was my brother more than anything. We’ve been through a lot with the fire department. In my 40 years in the fire department there hasn’t been many people more dedicated than Frank. He did a lot of self-educated, a lot of reading and a lot of learning. He kept with the times with the fire department, the same as he did with his work with the town. He was very instrumental in bringing us up to 2021 with equipment and the way he fought fire,” Fire Co. No. 1 Treasurer Peter Berenato said.

Domenico was extremely dedicated to the fire department, Berenato said.

“He was one of the best firemen. He was a great leader in that he didn’t ask anyone to do something he wouldn’t do or hadn’t done. He had the highest respect for his men. He always made sure no one was in a position where they would get hurt, and thankfully no one was hurt on his watch. Everyone knew how much time he put into advancing everything that we do,” Berenato said.

Fire Co. No. 1 Lt. Michael Pullia remembered Domenico as a longtime friend and fellow firefighter.

“We knew each other before the fire department. We both worked under Chief Emeritus Jack Donio. Schooner was a captain and I was secretary. There were a lot of laughs and good stories,” Pullia said.

Domenico was an example for other firefighters, Pullia said.

“He is the level that other firefighters should try to achieve. He had the book smarts and the hands-on ability. He would always say, ‘When you get to a scene, take the blinders off and assess the whole scene.’ It sounds like common sense but he made sure everyone did it,” Pullia said.

Pullia said Domenico trained many other firefighters during his long career.

“Many of them also went on to be full-time paid firemen … He was definitely the most dedicated fireman we’ve had in many years,” Pullia said.

According to his obituary, “Schooner was larger than life and he touched so many people’s lives. Intimidating at first sight yet a teddy bear at heart. He would give you the shirt off his back. He was a loyal friend, a devoted husband and father but his most favorite role was grandfather. Schooner will sadly be missed by his loving and what he termed his obnoxiously loud family.” 

His obituary said Domenico is predeceased by his parents Frank and Louise Domenico and brother-in-law, Edward DiMattia. Surviving are his loving wife of 34 years, Lee (Roselli); children, Brandon and Alyssa Critelli (Gennaro III) and beloved grandchildren, Gennaro IV and Francesca Critelli who were his world; his sisters, MaryAnn Domenico and Rita DiMattia; his niece, Debra DiMattia and nephew, Eddie DiMattia (Chrissy) and their children, Anthony and Krista; his brother and sister from another mother and father, Pete and Nancy Berenato; Godson, Peter Berenato and his brothers at Hammonton Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1.

At Domenico’s request, there will be no services in his honor. Donations in Schooner’s honor may be made to the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1, 108 Front Street, Hammonton, NJ 08037.

Arrangements entrusted to the Marinella Funeral Home.

Fire Co. No. 1 issued a press release regarding Domenico’s death.

“It is with profound sadness that Hammonton Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 announces the passing of 1st Lieutenant Frank “Schooner” Domenico, call number F-917. Frank joined Hammonton Fire Co. No. 1 in 1981, as a volunteer firefighter and remained an active member of the company until his cancer diagnosis approximately one year ago. During his 40-year career Frank held several line officer positions including lieutenant, captain, and chief,” the release said.

According to the release, in addition to his career as a volunteer in the fire service Domenico was the Fire sub-code official for the town of Hammonton for many years as well as the construction official and a trained arson investigator. During his time as a member of Fire Co. No. 1, Domenico played a command role in dozens of multi-agency fire responses both in Hammonton and the surrounding communities.

As an experienced firefighter Domenico personally oversaw development of training for new firefighters and participated in the design of several new fire apparatus at Fire Co. No. 1, the release said.

Following the news of his passing members of Fire Co. No. 1 gathered on July 4 to remember Domenico and his service to the company.

“It’s a difficult day for all of us, we join with Frank’s family in reflecting on his loss today,” Fire Co. No. 1 Captain AJ Berenato said.

Fire Co. No. 1 President Ron Mascola recalled Domenico’s years of service.

“It’s a terrible loss for our company and for the Town of Hammonton. Frank was an expert firefighter and a talented leader on and off the fire ground. His presence will be greatly missed,” Mascola said.

The release said in the coming weeks and months Fire Co. No. 1 plans to work with the Domenico family on an appropriate tribute to his service. Until then, the members of Fire Co. No. 1 ask that you respect the family’s privacy as they grieve their loss. The services will be private and at the convenience of the family.


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