Monday, August 11, 2014
Studying to become a priest at Gannon University in Erie, Pa., Gary Mocarski, 57, eventually heard a different calling – to be a firefighter.
In his home town of Culpeper, Va., he served as a volunteer junior firefighter at age 17, but followed other interests before returning to fire service.
Now living in Garden City, he has served as fire inspector for Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District for 18 years.
Mocarski earned his Bachelor’s degree in languages and linguistics, and philosophy and theology from Gannon University.
He earned a degree in engineering at Germanna Community College in Locust Grove, Va.
He also took some business courses at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Va.
After graduating from college, he served as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) instructor in Culpepper, Va.
He then worked as a plant operator at Virginia Power’s North Anna nuclear power station and also served there as a volunteer firefighter.
“The fire marshal moved and the assistant fire marshal was promoted, so I was offered the position as assistant fire marshal,” Mocarski said.
He eventually served as fire marshal and fire protection engineer there, but was laid off in 1989.
After doing some consulting work, he served as fire protection engineer in Aiken for the Savannah River Site, in charge of storing, processing and getting rid of nuclear waste.
He left in 1994 to serve as director of religious education at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Myrtle Beach.
At the same time, Mocarski was volunteering with Horry County Fire Department and was offered the job as fire inspector at Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District.
His special training includes EMT, EMT instructor, HazMat certification, certification as a state fire marshal, national certification from the International Code Council, Fire Inspector 1, Fire Inspector 2, certification as a fire and safety plans examiner, and certification as a fire code official.
Mocarski said his worst experience as a firefighter was during a fire call at an apartment complex in Murrells Inlet the day after the St. James High School graduation ceremony a few years ago.
After the fire was out, the crew was taking apart equipment when Capt. Nick Juliano collapsed from a heart attack.
Firefighters, including Mocarski performed CPR and Juliano survived.
“We have had worse fires and incidents, but almost losing a close friend, that hit close to home,” Mocarski stated.
“Some were in the ball park, but none were as scary. Your own mortality comes clearly into view in a situation like that.”
He said Juliano bounced back from the heart attack and has worked hard to be in better shape.
Mocarski’s best experience as a firefighter was being elected president of the South Carolina Fire Marshals Association in which he served for two years.
“That was a pinnacle in my career,” he said.
“The fact that my peers thought enough about my training, personality and work to invite me to be their leader for two years was overwhelming.”
As a professional goal, Mocarski said he strives to be one of the most knowledgeable fire inspectors in the state.
“I had my eye on the chief position, but Chief Norman Knight is only a few years older than me,” he commented.
“I would like to go into that spot when he retires.”
Mocarski and his wife, Kim, have four grown children and five grandchildren.
Nicole is married to Darrell, lives in Forestbrook area of Horry County, and has two boys.
Samantha is married to Kenny, lives in Murrells Inlet, and has three girls.
John is married to Christy, lives in Conway and works at the MI-GC Fire Department.
And Christopher is a rising senior at CCU, majoring in physics, and has a significant other named Casey.
They have a mixed Labrador Retriever, Nala, 2, and a cat, Izzy, 8.
When not serving the fire department, Mocarski serves as Scout leader for Boy Scout Troop 396.
“I love backpacking and camping outdoors,” he said.
“As Scout leader I have had 38 scouts reach the rank of Eagle Scout. I enjoy watching the Scouts grow up, become leaders and guiding them through that process.”
He is also a cantor and song leader at St. Michael Catholic Church in Garden City.
In his leisure time, he enjoys boating, fishing, and rooting for the Clemson Tigers football team and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball team.
He and his wife like to go out to quiet dinners together to “unwind and enjoy each other’s company.”
They recently went on vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
“We enjoyed getting away for a while and being away from our telephones,” Mocarski said.
He also likes being at family events with his children and grandchildren.
Mocarski has been delving into home repair with his son Chris and auto repair with his son John.
His life goal is to live long enough to enjoy his retirement.
“Right now we are passing through this earth like sands through the hourglass,” Mocarski stated.
“You have to live for today, learn from yesterday and apply the lessons you learned for tomorrow.”