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Published: Thursday, 6/23/2011

Richard J. Vascik, 1951-2011: Deacon, paramedic, nurse lived to serve


Richard J. Vascik, whose life's work was binding wounds -- physical and spiritual -- as a registered nurse, Roman Catholic deacon, and fire department paramedic and chaplain, died Sunday in the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University, Columbus. He was 60.

He had leukemia. An emergency room nurse at Mercy St. Charles Hospital, he was last able to work in September.

In November, the Rossford Fire & Rescue Department, of which he was a 29-year member, held a spaghetti dinner benefit to help pay expenses not covered by health insurance.

"It's tough for all of us," Rossford fire Chief James Verbosky said. "We're like brothers and sisters down here."

Department members didn't learn of his illness through the grapevine.

"When Rick was ready to tell everybody, he wanted to be the one to tell everybody," Chief Verbosky said.

Mr. Vascik came in on a training night and laid out his diagnosis, treatment options, and prospects.

"As a family, we told him we were there for him in any way possible," Chief Verbosky said.

Mr. Vascik was chaplain to the Rossford fire and police departments and the Lucas County sheriff's office. He also helped start the fire department's Explorer Post 790 for teenagers and young adults interested in firefighting.

"He was a rock. He was a silent hero in this community," Chief Verbosky said.

His catchphrase was, "Hey, sports fans," although he wasn't particularly a fan himself, the chief said. He wore a baseball cap to every call, but how he wore it was a sign.

"Backwards, it was serious. You knew something was going on," Chief Verbosky said. "When the hat went on backwards, it was go time."

He was born May 16, 1951, to Marie and Robert Vascik and was a 1969 graduate of Cardinal Stritch High School.

He was a staff sergeant in the Air Force and, in 10 years of service, was an aircraft electrician. He wanted to be a nurse even then, but his job was deemed critical, "so he couldn't cross over," his wife, Sandra, said.

He was a 1984 graduate of Mercy School of Nursing in Toledo. He worked about two years at Foote Hospital in Jackson, Mich. In the late 1980s, he was hired by St. Charles, where he worked first in a step-down unit and then in the emergency center.

In the 1980s, he took classes to learn more about his Catholic faith. He was ordained a deacon May 13, 1989. At the former Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Rossford and its successor, All Saints Church, he led marriage preparation classes and performed marriages. He baptized children and helped at the altar during Mass. And he offered spiritual care.

"When people were in the most need, he had a knack for helping and comforting people," his wife said.

He'd been president of the Ohio Chapter of the Federation of Fire Chaplains and was a member of the International Chapter of Police Chaplains.

He was a member of All Saints Church, Rossford, and the Holy Cross Council, Knights of Columbus.

Surviving are his wife, Sandra, whom he married Nov. 17, 1972; sons, Aaron and Andrew Vascik; daughter, Adrienne Stillwagon; mother, Marie Vascik; brother, Robert Vascik, Jr.; sisters, Mary Noel, Christine Ernest, and Constance Vascik; and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Thursday in All Saints Church, Rossford, with a vigil service at 7 Thursday night followed by a last alarm service. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in All Saints Church. Arrangements are by Suj- kowski Funeral Home of Rossford.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182

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