MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As a kid growing up in Chicago, Bill D’Agostino was fascinated by fire trucks. His first ride in one sealed his career choice.
“That’s when I was bit by the bug,” D’Agostino said.
Now, after 36 years with the Burnsville Fire Department, the longtime fire captain is retiring the end of February.
“I didn’t understand the impact I had on this individual’s life,” he said.
In 2004 Bill answered a different kind of service call. A first grade boy from Idaho was in town while on summer vacation seeing his grandmother. Because he had a fascination with fire trucks, his mother took him to the Burnsville fire station nearby.
Like the sign out front reads: Visitors welcome!
“He rang the door at fire station number two, at which I happened to be working at and I answered the door,” D’Agostino said.
A little boy named Noah Hamm wanted a tour. It lit a flame no firefighter could put out.
“It was immediately obvious that he had a passion for this, he was 6-years-old,” D’Agostino said.
Every summer since, Noah rang that same doorbell. Each time, the boy and his mom were invited inside where the curious young man had his curiosities answered by Captain D’Agostino. And on each visit, Noah’s mother snapped a photograph of the two. Eventually, D’Agostino got a collection of the photographs in the mail.
“I was choked up,” he said.
Then, in 2015 came the ultimate compliment. That’s when all those summer visits paid off in a huge way as Noah received his own firefighter badge from a department in Alaska, where he was attending school.
“Bill’s definitely one of the reasons I became a firefighter.” Hamm said.
In a FaceTime call from Alaska, Noah wished his mentor a happy retirement. He is also promising to repay all those years of warm hospitality.
“I remember you saying you’d like to come to Alaska and teach. I’m going to hold you to that, and hope to see you at some point,” Hamm said.
But the best surprise for the retiring D’Agostino would arrive in the mail. It was a book of all Noah’s visits over the years – along with words of thanks.
“Bill, I will always consider meeting you one of the blessings in my life,” the note reads.
Saving lives and inspiring the next generation — not only did Noah grow up to become a firefighter, but Bill’s own children are Hennepin County paramedics.
“I was privileged to have served the people that I have and to have touched the lives that I have,” D’Agostino said.
And isn’t that the true measure of success?