Munster Munster Fire Chief James Joseph Knesek Sr. was his son’s best friend, mentor and role model.
“My father was outgoing and always wanted to help people,” Knesek Jr. said. “He was a great leader and a dedicated public servant who led by example and cared about his men.”
Knesek Jr. said anyone could approach his father anytime with any questions.
“He always listened,” Knesek Jr. said.
A U.S Army veteran, Knesek Sr. served in Virginia as a marine engineer specialist. After working as a firefighter on Virginia and Wisconsin air bases, Knesek Sr. returned to Munster -- working his way up the ranks to become the town’s Director of Operations.
A graduate of Lewis University with a degree in fire science and public administration, Knesek Sr., 59, of Munster, served the town’s fire department 34 years becoming chief in 2005.
Knesek Jr. said his father took great pride in his jobs.
He wanted everything looking good, even driving around at night to report burned out street lights.
“He looked out for all of his guys with the Fire Department and public works,” Knesek Jr. said. “He did what was right and never thought of himself in the process. He was always thinking of the next guy.”
As fire chief, Knesek Sr. bought three new fire engines and made sure the equipment was maintained. He wrote grants for air packs and additional training.
“I’ve learned a lot from my dad,” Knesek Jr., a Munster volunteer firefighter said. “He pretty much taught me everything.”
Married 29 years to Julie, the couple met through mutual friends at Munster High School. They enjoyed family trips to Siesta Key Florida.
A devout Catholic, Knesek Sr. attended 6:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas More Church every Sunday.