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    Thursday, June 20, 2024

    Waterford police chaplain awarded for self-sacrifice in service

    Chaplain Joseph Parise Thursday, May 9, 2024, outside the Waterford Police Department. Parise has received the Jody Nazarchyk Award. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Waterford ― Nine-year police Chaplain Joseph Parise said the process of notifying people’s loved ones about the death of a family member or friend can be a long process.

    “I make a habit of sending a card out,” he said. “I’m in contact with them sometimes for weeks afterwards.”

    On Wednesday, the town’s Senior Services Department presented Parise, 76, with the Jody Nazarchyk Award for exemplifying self-sacrifice for the service of others. Parise, along with Police Chief Marc Balestracci and First Selectman Rob Brule gave speeches at the ceremony.

    Nazarchyk, who died early last year, left behind a legacy of service that included 25 years as a member of the Board of Education, a town selectwoman and Waterford Sports Hall of Famer.

    Parise, reflecting on his award later that afternoon, said he finds satisfaction in just doing his job. He referred to chaplains as “experts on death.”

    When there’s a death ― including from an accident, overdose, natural causes or violent crime ― Parise, whose brother was murdered in 2018, said he’s usually the one who breaks the horrible news to the family.

    “And then we turn on the empathy part of our lives,” he said, adding his presence brings comfort to those that are suffering.

    “Here we go giving people horrible news, but then they invite us to stay. And then we get to know the deceased, and that becomes very fascinating,” Parise said. “So you’re allowed to enter, almost a sacred place in people’s lives. And the chaplains I know, we feel so privileged to do that, where we bring the bad news, and they invite us close.”

    He said helping people is reward enough, and Nazarchyk felt the same way.

    Parise said he met Nazarchyk “probably 20 years ago” when they served on the town Board of Education together. He recalled how they worked side by side for almost a decade.

    “Jody and I, our personalities were similar in a lot of ways,” Parise said. “We were going to save every child. We were going to make sure every child in the Waterford schools’ system was going to get the best that they could.”

    And in terms of self-sacrifice, he said they were kindred in that their public service was often at the expense of supportive families back home.

    “You’re always on the phone talking to a citizen,” he said. “And I think Jody would say the same thing, our families were our backbone.”

    Balestracci, who met Parise in 2016, praised him for standing by his side during the most challenging times in his life.

    “I’m not sure I would be where I am today if I wasn’t able to lean on this man. He will forever hold a special place for me,” he said.

    Parise said the award was one of the “top five things in his life.”

    “I have a pretty big smile on my face today,” Parise added.

    d.drainville@theday.com

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