NEWS

Disabilities never stopped Vinny from helping Warwick firefighters

Posted 5/11/22

By J. MICHAEL LEVESQUE

Ask a Warwick Firefighter about “Vinny” (no last name needed) and the first thing you’ll get is a broad smile. The next thing you’ll hear is story …

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NEWS

Disabilities never stopped Vinny from helping Warwick firefighters

Posted

By J. MICHAEL LEVESQUE

Ask a Warwick Firefighter about “Vinny” (no last name needed) and the first thing you’ll get is a broad smile. The next thing you’ll hear is story after story about Vinny, and what he means to the Department and the City.

“Vinny” Is Vincent Edward Sperduti who lives with his mom Violet (his dad unfortunately passed) in the Conimicut section of Warwick.

Probably one of the most prolific volunteers in Rhode Island history, Vinny spends every available minute he can at one of the nine Fire Stations throughout the City, but mostly at Station 1 Apponaug.

What alone is remarkable. Even more remarkable is that Vinny, who has a developmental disability, has never let it affect his life’s greatest pleasure – helping the department and the City.

Vinny was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, moved to the City of Warwick with his family (then at a home on Long Street) and graduated from Toll Gate High School in 1981. After graduation he entered the work program at the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center on 3445 Post Road in Warwick, assigned to a job “packing jewelry at a local company.”

His next job was at Electric Boat in Quonset, part of the cleaning crew, where he works to this day. But, after a long day of work, Vinny is solely focused on his beloved Fire Department, logging in countless hours at the station, doing whatever he can to help.

Vinny wanted to be a firefighter, but it wasn’t in the cards. Vinny being Vinny, that did not deter him. Instead, he got on his bike (now he drives a car) and for the last 40 years (yes you read that right – 40 years!) he has pitched-in in whatever way he could, at the direction of course of the command staff.

Some members of that command staff (like Assistant Chief Brian Cobb) even let Vinny ride in the truck to a call, where he has a catbird seat to see the Warwick professionals perform their duties.

He is also a staple at department functions, including promotion ceremonies, fundraising events, community events and even sad bereavements.

Asked how this remarkable devotion started, Vinny said simply, “I needed something to do. I wanted to be a firefighter”, but when that didn’t work out, he decided to “do whatever I can to help” That help includes “washing the trucks, washing the floors, daytime and nighttime.” He also tries to make sure “no one pulls the fire alarms!”

He also liked visiting the 9 stations (when he started there were 8). And, of course, he “likes to ride on the trucks, but I stay in the truck. I never went into a burning building.” He also bought himself a “fire radio” so he could monitor things at home.

As mentioned, it doesn’t take much to illicit a comment about Vinny from a firefighter.

Assistant Chief Brian Cobb, who has a special relationship with Vinny, including letting Vinny ride with him for 10 years (Vinny calls him “Cobby” for fun) said “I’ve known Vinny for 31 years. He is always solid. If there’s a function, Vinny will be there, whether a wake, funeral, parade, of softball game.” He continued “Everyone knows Vinny. Vinny knows everyone.”

Warwick Firefighter Union President Lt. Michael Carriero said,  “Vinny is a senior man. I’ve been on for 20 years (he just celebrated that anniversary) - he’s been there longer. That’s how we respect him when he comes to the station.”

He added “Vinny is a good morale booster. We love his enthusiasm, and how he loves the job.” He added with a grin, “He’s a character! He knows and remembers everything. He even remembers roll-call numbers and what trucks you’re on!”

Asked how long this “super volunteer” will keep going Vinny said, “not too much longer. I might take a break.”

He still goes to work every day at EB. He parks his car on Post Road and a Trudeau Center van picks him up, along with two other individuals. He is accompanied throughout the day with Karissa Brown, a Trudeau Direct Support Professional who mentors them and works alongside of them. She then brings Vinny back to his car at the end of the workday.

The Trudeau Center’s mission is to promote and enhance the quality of life of individuals with disabilities. They certainly have shined in the case of Vincent Edward Sperduti.

The Warwick Fire Department will miss Vinny if he ever does “retire”.  Warwick is a certainly a better plce because of him.

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