PRESCOTT, AZ - For years, Joe Woyjeck and his son, Kevin Woyjeck, restored fire trucks, but Joe had to finish their last project alone.
Joe is working on restoring a 1930 fire engine that will pay tribute to his fallen son.
“Kevin helped us build it," he said.
Joe is the president of the Los Angeles County Fire Museum and a retired firefighter. His son, Kevin, followed in his dad’s firefighter footsteps and became a member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots just three months before he died.
Kevin was one of the 19 hotshots who perished in the Yarnell Hill fire on June 30, 2013.
“I’ve had to tell a lot of people that their family member had passed,” Joe said.
He never thought he’d be on the other side of the bad news though. He was a firefighter in Los Angeles County for 34 years and showed compassion to everybody he encountered.
“I look back [at] my career and I’m so thankful that I was compassionate,” he said. “I was able to show it early when I needed it and it was given to me.”
The compassion he received from the ones who delivered the horrible news that his son would not be returning home has helped he and his family move forward.
“It’s mushy, this year has been a blur,” he said.
But some of the memories, like flying Kevin home for his funeral, are etched in his memory forever.
“We get ready to land, the tarmac was covered with firefighters, friends, military, it was quite a site,” Joe said.
This past year has been exceptionally difficult for Kevin’s younger brother, Bobby.
“We were inseparable,” Bobby said. “We did everything together. Everything I learned to do was from him.”
The memories of restoring cars, fishing and camping are all that Bobby has left.
“I have this deep seeded fear that I will forget him and the memories,” Bobby said.
Bobby decided to follow in his brothers footsteps by studying to become an EMT.
His parents will always remember Kevin as the carefree, fun kid that he was.
“My wife uses the world faultless,” Joe said. “He didn’t care who you were, he was there, he was your friend.”
Joe says that Kevin’s motto in life was “Choose to be happy,” which is how his family is living now, even though it’s painful.
“Make sure to hug your kids and if you have family issues, fix them, you only get one shot at this,” Joe said.