Gerald M. “Bear” Celecki was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, on January 8, 1945. He was a graduate of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical High School, Perth Amboy, in 1966. He first started working as a mechanic at Woodbridge Motors after graduation. He worked at Amboy Terminal Company from 1977 until 1980. He was then employed by Public Service Electric & Gas, Somerset, from 1980 until he retired in 2007. He married Rose Tarloski in 1977. They did not have any children, but cherished their nieces and nephews and a few of the children of other couples who they were very close to.
His volunteer fire service spanned 40+ years in the communities where he lived. He started out as a member of the McClellan Engine Company #3 in the city of Perth Amboy Fire Department. He was a member from December 1975 until 1985, serving as a firefighter. He and Rose moved to South Amboy and 1985, where he became a member of Progressive Fire Company of the South Amboy Fire Department. He served as a lieutenant in 1992-1993 and as captain in 1994. He also served as fire company president. He was a member of the Perth Amboy Relief Association and both the Perth Amboy and South Amboy Exempt Firemen’s Associations. He was a mutual aid fire coordinator with the South County Mutual Aid Association of Middlesex County during the 1990s. He became a member of the South Amboy Fire Police in 2006 and progressed through the ranks to become the chief of the Middlesex County Fire Police.
He was a charter member of the Antique Fire Apparatus Association of Central Jersey and owned several antique fire trucks that he proudly displayed at antique musters and drove in many local parades, bearing the banner of “Bear’s Bucket Brigade.” He also served on the board of directors of the Frog Hollow Swim Club in South Amboy.
He was an avid fan of the New York Yankees. He also enjoyed cooking, fishing, trains, making stained-glass art, and monthly breakfast and lunch meetings with the PSE&G retirees. Jerry “Bear” Celecki got his nickname from his huge presence and big, lovable size, always with a smile or a kind word to all he met. He had a contagious laugh and was always ready to serve the community he lived in.
He died in the line of duty on Wednesday, October 14, 2015, while directing traffic at the scene of a fire call at the young age of 70.