CINNAMINSON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- For nearly half a century, the heart and soul of the Cinnaminson Fire Department has been 85-year-old Jim DiFiore.
"It was just in his blood I think. He just grabbed onto it and ran with it," said his daughter, Gina DiFiore.
He raised his children in the station and Gina eventually joined, too. This is their chosen family.
"Not many people make it to 45 years. Not many people make it to 15 years anymore or even 10 years," said Chief William Kramer.
DiFiore's longevity as a volunteer of now 46 years should have been recognized last March. It got pushed back and then pushed back again because of the pandemic. Then, an old spinal injury made him lose the ability to walk.
"People couldn't go in and help him like he needed, and he just couldn't use his legs anymore," said Gina.
His family made the difficult decision to put him in assisted living at Riverview Estates where he's living now.
"I wish I could do it another 45, but I can't," said DiFiore of his time with the department.
He also can't see his family or visit his friends, so they all asked him to join a firefighter meeting on Zoom, where they surprised him with overdue recognition.
"I couldn't express myself. It was just overwhelming," said DiFiore.
For DiFiore, one of the hardest parts of these past few months has been not being at the station, but this little gesture made him feel like part of the team.
"I'm happy to be here. Happy to know I'm not forgotten and look forward to a few more years of doing this," he said.
Cinnaminson firefighter recognized for 45 years of service