On a day of many memorable statements, perhaps San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda said it best.
“San Marino Police and Fire are one team,” Rueda said on Thursday afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce’s 12th annual Police and Fire Appreciation Luncheon. “We just wear different uniforms.”
That sentiment clearly carried the day, as Firefighter-Paramedic Russell Wilcox and Police Officer Frank Calistro were honored by Rueda and San Marino Police Chief John Incontro, respectively.
Incontro thanked the many groups and supporters in the audience at the San Marino Center, then admitted that he was at a loss for further words when acknowledging Calistro’s many contributions.
“’Thanks’ is the biggest thing I can say about Frank,” Incontro said.
He then spoke about the many sacrifices that are made by the family members of first responders, who “every morning when you leave the house wonder if you are coming home.” Incontro also said that Calistro came up with an idea to canvass San Marino’s neighborhoods after a burglary to let the residents know what is going on.
“People like Frank make me proud to be the chief,’ Incontro said.
“This is what I love to do,” Calistro said as he clutched the plaque that was given to him by Chamber President Sandra Troup. “I hope some day I have an office where I can hang it up.”
That line brought a large laugh.
When introducing Wilcox, Rueda said he felt a “palpable” spirit of appreciation from the community and its residents. Rueda also mentioned that he “could pick any one of our firefighters” to receive the award.
“They work as a team, in excellent team fashion,” Rueda said.
He also mentioned how a resident dropped by recently and displayed a “stem to stern” scar on his chest, then told Rueda that one of his men was the reason he was alive after he needed life-saving resuscitation.
Wilcox mentioned his current stint as Acting Captain, and said it is no challenge considering the teamwork in the fire station.
“To quote Chief Rueda, ‘we know what right looks like,’” Wilcox said.
To close the ceremony, emcee Dr. Karl von Tiehl asked each attendee to invoke the recent memory of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and acknowledged the efforts of those who came to the aid of those in need.
A 23-year veteran of the San Marino Fire Department, Russell Wilcox is a Firefighter Paramedic and Acting Captain. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from Azusa Pacific University and an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science from Victor Valley College. Wilcox completed paramedic school in 1992, which included his field internship in and around San Francisco. Russell has been married to his wife, Christine, for 26 years and has three children, Katherine, Sarah, and Zachary.
At work, he also takes care of Old Number One, a 1923 American LaFrance fire engine, which he drives in the 4th of July Parade. In addition, he maintains the AED program throughout the City of San Marino.
Russell has coached all three of his children in soccer for 16 consecutive years, including four middle school championships. His is also an advanced referee for AYSO and occasionally still refs a game or two.
“If you can’t play, coach,” Wilcox is famous for saying. “If you can’t see, ref.”
In addition to soccer, Russell is an Assistant Boy Scout Leader for Troop 351 in Wrightwood with an emphasis on high adventure. He hiked Half Dome with ten scouts and has summited many local mountain peaks.
Police officer Frank Calistro is 34 years old. He was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley and is married to Melissa, a nurse practitioner at a local hospital.
Calistro is a St. Francis High School alumnus. After high school, he continued to pursue his education at USC, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Political Science. Having a passion for law, Calistro decided to attend the Glendale College of Law and graduated with degree in 2014.
Calistro started his law enforcement career as a San Marino police cadet at the age of 18. In August of 2015, he attended the LAPD Police Academy on his days off and successfully graduated the LAPD Police Academy as a level-one reserve officer. In August 2017, Calistro become a full-time San Marino police officer and is currently assigned to the night shift patrol.
His contemporaries say Calistro is a highly motivated officer who stays in great shape and is well respected by his peers and co-workers. His professionalism and the manner in which he performs his patrol duties is always above and beyond, which clearly reflects the SMPD’s motto, “Pride in Service.”