John O’Rourke received a hero’s applause recently at Milford City Hall for pulling a local boy out of a pond after he fell through the ice in February.

While honored by the applause and an award from the mayor, he seems most touched by a thank you letter that came from the boy that he rescued that day.

“The mother asked if we could meet,” O’Rourke said. “The boy has two siblings. They all hand wrote me a thank you letter.”

“So sweet,” O’Rourke said.

According to Milford Patch, the mother also sent cookies to the Milford Police Department to thank them for their role in the rescue.

It was Feb. 5 when O’Rourke headed out for what he thought would be a relatively leisurely walk with his dog on the trails at Mondo Pond.

It was a mild day with a temperature of 41 degrees, and as O’Rourke walked he saw a group of children on the ice and warned them to be careful.

“As John turned to leave, he saw that one of the boys had ventured further out as the ice cracked and the boy collapsed into the water,” Mayor Ben Blake said at Milford City Hall this month when he gave O’Rourke a citation for heroism.

“Seeing the terrified child floating just above the surface, John grabbed a stick and ventured onto the ice on his stomach, wiggling his way to the boy. As John was pulling the boy out of the frigid water with the stick, he fell into the water as the ice cracked under him.”

O’Rourke grabbed the boy and managed to get him onto the ice.

“With John’s instructions, the boy was able to safely get back to shore,” the mayor said.

Milford police arrived and deployed a life safety ring to O’Rourke, who was then pulled to the edge of the pond. Firefighters arrived and quickly treated him and the child for cold water exposure.

O’Rourke, 62, lives in Milford and works part time delivering auto parts for Parts Place in Milford.

He and his wife, Diane, often walk their dog, an English Springer Spaniel named Cork, at Mondo Ponds.

“It is a lovely spot,” he said.

Diane was not with him that day. O’Rourke was walking alone trying to tire Cork out so he and Diane could go to a Super Bowl party.

“When I was out there in the water, Corky came out onto the ice,” O’Rourke said. “He was out further than I was, adding more stress to the situation.

“Fortunately, I was able to get the people on shore to call him in,” he added.

In front of a crowded City Hall earlier this month, Mayor Ben Blake handed O’Rourke a plaque for his deed. The people in attendance stood and applauded as the mayor said, “The definition of a hero is ‘a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his or her brave deeds and noble qualities.’ As a result of John’s selfless and courageous act, a young boy’s life was saved and a tragedy averted.”

The March Board of Aldermen's meeting started with not only the salute to a local hero but also with what Blake called a salute to heroism, service to the public, and innovation. He also presented proclamations to local Girl Scouts and two Lego teams that recently won competitions.
Service to community
Local Girl Scouts, including Daisies, Brownies and other Scout ranks, attended the meeting to help mark the 105th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, which began March 12, 1912, when Savannah, Ga., native Juliette Gordon Low gathered 18 girls to provide them the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.

Blake gathered the Milford Scouts together at the front of City Hall and proclaimed March 12-18 Girl Scout Week in Milford.
Innovation
The mayor also honored two Milford Lego teams.

The team Lightspeed participated in the First Lego League qualifying event in November, where it placed first for Robot Design and first for Teamwork in Robot Performance. The team moved on in December to the state championships, where it won the Outstanding Teamwork Award as well as the overall second-place Champions Award. The team’s accomplishments earned it an invitation to the U.S. Open Championship to be held in the spring of 2017.

The team is made up of Aislinn Burns, Kyle Chy, Marco Buschauer, and Diya Daruka from the Milford Public Schools Enrichment Program. Their coach is Michael Buschauer, working with assistant coaches Amy Burns and Jenny Buschauer.

Another team, Masterminds, participated at the Backyard Blizzard qualifying tournament in November. The team placed first overall in Robot Performance, first for Project Research and second overall. Masterminds then went on to the state championships, where it received the Mechanical Design Award and placed 10th in a robot game competition.

The Masterminds team includes James Allen, Sean Ayoub, David Gaetano, Joseph Gaetano, Justin Gentallan, Jordan Hines, Isaiah Moore, Nathaniel Seluga, Violet Wilson, and Brendan Ziegler.

Their coaches are Kris Seluga and Lori Seluga, and they are mentored by Albert Ayoub and John Hines.