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Jim Comiskey is a longtime East Haven resident who volunteers with many organizations in town. (Photo courtesy of Jim Comiskey )
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Jim Comiskey has always served his community. He grew up in New Haven before his family moved to Hamden where he graduated from Hamden High School. While Jim has lived in East Haven for nearly 50 years, he recently returned to Hamden to celebrate his 50-year class reunion.
“They took us through the school and [it was] almost all totally different except the main wing,” says Jim “The whole weekend was nice and I got to see some guys I went to school with I hadn’t seen in some time.”
After graduating, Jim served the country with time in the Marine Corps during Vietnam. When he returned home, he married Antionette and the couple moved to East Haven where they raised their two daughters.
Just two years after moving to town, Jim joined the volunteer firefighters and has given his time to that organization for the past 46 years. Even now he continues his involvement through the monthly meetings and training exercises.
“I’m not as active as I used to be, but I’m still a member,” says Jim.
One of Jim’s friends then began an East Haven chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association. Several years after the group was formed, a member suggested that the VVA 484 host a fireworks show and Jim and the VVA have been hosting the annual display ever since.
“It’s about celebrating our nation’s birthday and in honor of all of those who lost their lives for the freedom of our country,” says Jim. “You can’t forget the lives lost protecting thing that freedom.”
The fireworks display and beach party have turned into a yearly tradition for many people in the East Haven community, including Jim, his wife, their daughters, and now their five grandchildren. Jim notes the VVA not only oversees the fireworks display but has a hand in choosing the headlining band for the beach party.
“There’s a lot of music, including the feature band, and food vendors,” says Jim. “It gets packed with families down there. Last year we had a rain delay and we ended up shooting them off late, but people stayed. They look forward to it and are already asking about the date for next year.”
The East Haven fireworks and beach party are held every year on the last Saturday of June—in 2020, the event will be on Saturday, June 27. While the event is more than eight months away, the VVA is always thinking about the show.
“We do a lot of fundraising for that,” says Jim. “We just did a care show at the East Haven Fall Festival with more than 100 cars and we have a bus trip coming up. All of the money from those goes into the fireworks show.”
The VVA 484 bus trip fundraiser is Saturday, Nov. 2. The bus leaves East Haven Town Hall at 4 p.m. headed to Mohegan and returns at 10 p.m. The cost is $30 and includes transportation and vouchers for food and betting. For information on tickets, see the East Haven VVA 484 Fireworks page on Facebook.
In December, VVA 484 will team up with the fire department for a holiday toy drive. Those wishing to donate new, unwrapped toys can bring them to the town beach from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 2.
The VVA originally met at the American Legion hall and soon after, they asked if anyone was interested in joining. Jim agreed and through that, he has been involved with the Memorial Day parade and the Veterans Day parade. The VVA, VFW, and American Legion came together, forming the Veterans Council.
“The gentleman running the Memorial Day parade was getting older and asked for help,” says Jim. “The Veterans Council runs the parades and other activities like town’s flag day. On Veterans Day [Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m.], we march from the American Legion Post to the Town Green and lay wreathes on the monuments and go back to the post for refreshments.”
Jim also serves in the Color Guard, which performs the opening ceremonies for the East Haven Fall Festival, carrying the American flag, POW, post colors, and rifles. He enjoys the camaraderie of the veterans groups, sharing “beers with the guys” and attending football games like the West Point game a few weeks ago.
Wanting a way to not only easily communicate with his fellow veterans, but also spread the news about the group, Jim began the “East Haven Veterans” Facebook page two years ago. He shares information on upcoming events as well as photos.
“I try to get pictures of all of the veterans events and activities in town,” says Jim. “It’s a good way to let the people know what the veterans are up to.”
While Jim has been highly involved in volunteer work for many years, he has only been retired for the past two, previously working as a pharmacy technician at the Hospital of St. Raphael.
Just before retirement, Jim became involved with Clean UP East Haven, a group that meets on the second Saturday of the month from April to September cleaning up different areas of town. They finished the 2019 cleanups recently with maintaining the area around the beach.
Jim has also volunteered with the East Haven Shoreline Greenway Trail for the past five years. The trail is part of the Shoreline Greenway Trail, which has a goal of connecting Lighthouse Point and Hammonasset with 25 miles of trail. Each town is responsible for its own section of trail and every month, a different town hosts a walk.
“For October, the walk was in East Haven and we had about 30 people come out,” says Jim. “It’s a very nice trail with part of it through Farm River State Park and behind the old D.C. Moore school.”
Jim became involved with the East Haven Shoreline Greenway Trail after attending a walk. When they asked for volunteers, he raised his hand and now helps in various ways such as raking leaves from the trail or clearing sections of trail.
“Part of the trail in East Haven is already done and we’re looking for grants to continue the trail to get to Lighthouse on one side and into Branford on the other,” says Jim. “It’s always nice to have open space.”
When Jim isn’t volunteering, he can often be found at the town’s baseball fields watching his grandsons play baseball. He also enjoys music, gardening, walking, and biking.
“I like to stay active,” says Jim. “It’s a great town we live in and the people in town. I enjoy meeting people and being with the guys.”
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