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Phil Vanezia
The Centralia Sports Hall of Fame
2006 VIP Award Winner


For over 40 years, Venezia has collected Centralia sports history and kept records and statistics primarily on Centralia High School sports.

With an inherent nature to collect things, he began collecting sports articles and statistics from the SENTINEL sports pages written by then Sports Editor, Bill Niepoetter. These historical notes and stats became the basis for several file drawers full of records and notes.

He has been a part of the Centralia Sports Hall of Fame Committee since 1985, and as historian has been responsible for putting together the program book for the banquet each year. 

Phil has been chairman of the Hall of Fame committee since 2001.



Venezia retiring after 35 years
reprint from The Centralia Sentinel", Monday, January 17, 2011 by Matt Barba

"After spending 35 years at a job, the people you work with become like a second family, and that's exactly how Captain Phil Venezia of the Centralia Fire Department feels about his co-workers.

A lot has changed in the more than three decades he spent with the department, Venezia said, including the addition of computers for daily reporting and routine tasks to different equipment and increased manpower on each shift.

Born and raised in Centralia, he first got interested in being a firefighter after he and his brother began listening to the radio calls the city's fire department would go out on.

"We got to following them and then I got to know some of the guys and we'd follow them around," said Venezia, "Eventually, I got old enough to take the test and so I did."

After taking the test, Venezia said he had to wait for an opening in the department and at that time guys on the callback list would be brought in to help with fires but also for training and evaluation.

Eventually, though, he got a job with the department and joined on Jan. 26, 1976.

 Back then, he recalled the department still operated out of the back of the Community Center on Walnut Street.  The department's equipment consisted of two pumper trucks and a snorkel and water was brought to the scene of a fire via two-and-a-half inch hoses.

"A lot has changed from back then.  We didn't have a ladder truck when we started and now we have two.  I didn't think we'd ever have 75 foot aerials we'd respond to calls with when I started." said Venezia.

The size of the hose has doubled now, too, and all of the equipment changes have made it so the department can respond to fire calls more efficiently.  

In the day-to-day work of the department, Venezia said the biggest change was going to a computerized system for filling out reports and other paperwork.

"Now we use computers for everything," said Venezia, smiling, "Of course, some of us older guys, it took us awhile to get used to it but now I wouldn't know how to fill out a paper report."

While he loved the hours he worked over the 35 years with the department - 24 hours on and 48 hours off - Venezia said one of the best parts of the job is the emergency medical and non-structure fire calls the department goes out on.

When you go out on a medical call and help someone, yhou see how grateful they are, that's satisfying to me," said Venezia, "I know they appreciate that we're there to help them." 

Of course, spending a third of your life with your co-workers, Venezia said he has grown to see them as his other family.

"You learn to live with each other, you know.  When the time comes to put out a fire, the guys do a really great job of working together.  The younger guys too are doing a great job," said Venezia.

Of his plans in retirement, Venezia said he is not sure yet, but he and his wife will probably travel.  He also plans to spend time with his mother, who still lives in Centralia, and visit his children and grandchildren up around the Springfield area.

Venezia, a dedicated follower of Centralia High School Orphans athletics, said he wants to spend more time working on the Centralia Sports Hall of Fame Committee.

"I'm very, very thankful to have the job I've had.  I couldn't ask for a better place to spend my career," said Venezia"



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