John "Big John" Glowacki

As you all know, I got started in EMS at a very young age. The area of New Jersey that I grew up in is rich with a long, distinguished history of Volunteer EMS and Fire personnel. I remember being in my EMT class at the age of 16. It was taught in a large auditorium filled with about 75 people. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, we’d sit there enjoying lectures, or break up into groups and run skills stations, with the ultimate goal of adding all of us to the long, distiguished list of graduates of Community Medical Center’s EMT program.

That was where I met a man by the name of “Big John” Glowacki. He was a man whose reputation as a gruff, hard nosed, demanding yet professional person preceded him. John was an EMT Instructor, one of our dispatchers, and Life Member and Captain of the East Dover Volunteer First Aid Squad. It was impressive that had accomplished all of this by the age of 30.

When I turned 18, John approached me and asked me if I would be interested in riding with him on his Tuesday Day Duty Crew on his squad. I wasn’t a member, but a lot of us who rode days down in Dover Twp (now known as Toms River) worked together to do what we could to get as many trucks on the road as possible. At some point during my career down there, I rode on a rig from five of the six Township departments.

For the next three summers, and starting in the afternoons when I was in high school, I would come home, call John, and let him know I was in service. During that time, I learned a lot from him, not only from a patient care stand point, but also from an attitude and professionalism stand point. John wasn’t as mean as some people made him out to be. Sure, he was demanding and authoritative sometimes, but there are few people who I have encountered in my career who were more dedicated to the field. I never saw John lose his cool on a call. He was always so calm, cool and collected no matter what the situation.

In 1999 and early 2000, there were problems brewing in the Volunteer Squads in Dover Township. There were talks of going paid, or at least partially paid, and how it would work and be setup. John and I fell on different sides of this extremely political argument, and it put a lot of stress on our friendship. As a result, I stopped riding with him, and we rarely talked for about six months.

John moved to a different part of the town, and began living with his girlfriend who was an ER Nurse. I stuck around in Massachusetts, and was not only getting ready to start my senior year of college, but I was also getting ready to take my State Paramedic Exam. I remember talking to John that Summer, and patching things up. He and his girlfriend occasionally took trips up to Vermont, and we made plans that next time he decided to do that, he’d give me a call and we’d try to meet up somewhere along the way, since he’d almost be driving right past where I lived.

In the evening of August 23rd, I had my nose in my Paramedic book when the phone rang in my dorm room. My Mom sounded pretty choked up, and the first words out of her mouth were “First of all, I want you to know we’re okay. . .”

She then relayed to me the story of what had happened. The day before, John had gone into the ER with a severe headache. He had been discharged that night, and came home. His girlfriend went out that morning to fill his scripts, and came home about a half hour later, and found him dead on the couch. There was nothing anyone could do. Three Paramedics and two ambulances responded to try and help, most of them had been trained by John.

Despite the efforts of some amazing EMTs and responders, John “Big John” Glowacki passed away on August 23, 2000 at the age of 34. Ocean County lost a great EMT, an advocate for the field, a dispatcher, and I lost a friend, and mentor.

I went home this Summer to an annual town party hosted by our Volunteer Fire Department. Some of us were catching up over a few beers, and talking about how things “used to be.” The topic of John came up, and we couldn’t believe that it had actually been 10 years since we lost him

Even now, 10 years later, his lessons and words still resonate in me. The lessons I learned from John went far beyond how to KED someone, or the proper way to put on a HARE Traction Splint; they had to do with how to care for people and how to be the best provider I could be.

I miss you, big guy!


  1. Sounds like a great guy. I had a friend that used to work with me at AMR… Type I diabetic that (we think) had a pump failure. He and I had a variety of mutual friends, and every now and then, we'll remember him in something small… Like his acronym for the Bariatric Unit. He had an amazing sense of humor, and he made our hurricaine deployment FUN.

  2. Karen Glowacki Conway /

    John and I were married in 2000. We moved to Skylark Dr. where unfortunately, he passed. Even though we divorced after 3 yrs, we still remained close. He had recruited my son to be on the East Dover 1st Aid. He was an inspriration to all. It was I who supplied a photo to the papers. His doctor called me and told me that he was in the day before he died with a sinus infection. BP good etc. (he was on BP meds.) We met when I was a 9-1-1 operator with Ocean County. He was working at Dover PD and we used to talk when free and then go out to breakfast. I also enjoyed trips to Vermont with him. He loved Ben and Jerrys factory and biking there. At home, he loved our Golden Retriever, boating, ham radio, cooking, and his computers. Too bad his first wife didn’t see how he grew! She moved out of state and didn’t return even for his funeral. His family treated me like I was still part of the family and asked me to cover the boat after the funeral because it hadnt been done. He always said how I couldn’t cover it. Well! I showed him, with tears streaming down my face, I did put it on. We were only divorced a few mths so it still was rough for my boys and myself. The spirit of John lives on in many.
    He is always in my thoughts.

  3. Karen Glowacki Conway /

    big error! John and I were married in 1996!!!!

  4. Thanks for your comments, Karen.. I think I remember your son.. his name was not Adam, was he? I may have ridden with him a bit over at Toms River EMS..

    • Karen Glowacki Conway /

      Yes, it was Adam. He went on to get his Criminal Justice degree and also is a pilot.He just passed the test to be on the boarder patrol and is going for his physical Tues. Looks promising, as he is fluent in Spanish besides flying and criminal history degree. Are your parents well? Hope so. By the way, when Johns family was cleaning out his house they asked me to stop by to get some of his mail and other items. Neighbors told me to look in the trash bin as they saw them throw out what appeared to be personal items. To my horror, I found his badges from Dover PD and East Dover First Aid. Other things that the family wasnt aware that were loved by John were tossed. His Energizer Bunny that sat on his computer for instance. I now have it near mine. His Wiley Coyote items.
      I am glad I looked in trash! I still have his badges. How is Mike Caruso? Richie Soskin? So many others!

  5. Kevin Halucha /

    Scott, that is a great article that you wrote about John. I have his picture in my face book pictures and saved on my computer. He was a great friend and mentor. I still remember a lot of his different little sayings and other things. I will never forget that day that he passed away. It was probably the hardest day that I ever had to do in my EMS career.

  6. Cindi Mooney /

    It still only seems like yesterday. My heart still hurts. A great friend to everyone that truly new him. Thanks Scott.

  7. Maggie /

    Scott, This is great! One of the best things ever written about John, you totally and completely captured him…..Maggie

  8. Thanks, everyone.. I miss you all, and definitely miss the good old days. John was one of those individuals that made EMS what it was in Ocean County.

  9. Marypat /

    Great job with this Scott! John would be proud of what you wrote and what you’ve become! Marypat


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  2. Words of Wisdom - EMS in the New Decade - […] I’ve written about Big John before.  He was one of my first EMT instructors and had a major influence…

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