By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Mickey Grasso began 2017 by retiring after serving 43 years as an emergency medical technician and firefighter with the Marlborough Fire Department (MFD). Now, he’s continuing his 10th year as a lead guitarist and backup vocalist with The Missy Maxfield Project, a popular Metrowest-based band.
While on vacation from a factory job as a teenager, Grasso considered pursuing a more challenging career. Upon returning home, he called the MFD and spoke with then-Chief Bill Maroney.
“I was always interested in rescue-type work and thought of the fire department,” Grasso explained. “I’d seen rescue stories on TV and was fascinated by them.”
At the time in 1973, Marlborough had a call fire department with paid workers, in which Grasso was appointed on a Monday and reported to his first fire that Thursday. He initially worked from the former Central Fire Station on Main Street, now the store, the Vin Bin. There, Grasso recalls then-Capt. Everett Russell training new firefighters with potentially lifesaving instruction on preventing a fall through weakened roofs.
“He said to throw out your arms and hopefully you won’t fall beyond your shoulders because your outstretched arms would stop you,” Grasso relayed. “I fell through a floor once and did exactly that. Luckily, I didn’t fall all the way below the floor.”
Grasso soon became an EMT and was hired fulltime, then was assigned to the rescue truck for about 30 years, as its driver for most of that time. He reflects upon several decades of calls with mixed emotions
“The rescue truck was the busiest in Marlborough for many years because it responded to every fire, medical and accident call,” he noted. “We had lots of good times over the years and I’ve also seen lots of tragedies. I saw three children die in fires, two at the same time. All calls are intense, but that one was really hard.”
In recent years, Grasso worked from the current Central Fire Station on Maple Street.
“When the city bought the big tower truck six years ago, I transferred to driving and operating Tower 1 – and leaving the rescue truck for younger firefighters,” he said.
Some of the job’s pressures were relieved as Grasso increased time on another longtime passion: music. He has performed with The Missy Maxfield Project since the band’s inception in 2008. Its Facebook page describes their repertoire as “a blend of a classic and southern rock, rhythm and blues, pop and a splash of country.” Among venues throughout Metrowest where they perform are in Marlborough at Bolton Street Tavern, Union Common and the annual Labor Day Parade.
“If the crowd has a good time listening to our music, then we have a good time, too,” Grasso declared.
For the past three summers, The Missy Maxfield Project performed as a warm-up act for classic musicians of yesteryear at Indian Ranch in Webster. As his most memorable gig, Grasso cites their 2014 booking there along with the “Happy Together Tour.” That concert included The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie; Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night; Mark Farner, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad; Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels; and Gary Lewis & The Playboys.
Grasso collected more memories after announcing his retirement from MFD. His colleagues in Group 4 gave him a surprise party Jan. 12 at Horseshoe Pub & Restaurant in Hudson. Another surprise for him was learning that his wife Cindy knew of the secret.
“I went up the stairs with my wife, then suddenly saw all the people I worked with – and they yelled, ‘Surprise,’” he relayed. “They gave me a beautiful plaque. It was lots of fun.”
The fun continued Jan. 18, when Group 4 and more firefighters joined Grasso for his last shift at Central Fire Station. He was given the opportunity to drive himself home in Tower 1 as other fire trucks followed.
“It was an emotional ride,” he acknowledged.
Grasso appreciates the time working with his immediate and extended family members. His daughter Janeen Rabidou is a Marlborough firefighter.
“It’s been great working over the years with my brothers and sisters in the fire department – I’ll miss them all,” he shared. “I feel privileged to have worked a job that I always loved.”