Anyone who knows Joseph Magnus knows that he is full of pure grit and determination. As he says at times “Magnus means 'great' in Latin,” he has certainly lived up to that name. To capture his greatness you don’t even have to know him, you just might know of him and what he has done for his community.
To have Magnus on your side, working with him, talking to him, you begin to realize how one man can actually make a difference.
As a child Magnus had to battle adversity. His country of Czechoslovakia was under Communist takeover. He can tell you how scared he was growing up in that environment, how going through that made him appreciate the freedom of the United States. “Greatest Country in the World” you can
usually hear Magnus say.
In December the Greatest Country in the World rewarded Magnus for his outstanding work as a volunteer. For 29 years Magnus has served his neighborhood as a member of the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps (MVVAC). As one of it’s founding members, Magnus has remained active with MVVAC ever since.
Emigrant Savings Bank and the New York City Council presented Magnus with a Proclamation to the City and a check for $5,000 for MVVAC. In April, Emigrant Savings Bank called for residents to submit nominations for an immigrant in their neighborhood who has given back to their community. Magnus received nominations from the Queens Ledger Newspaper and Ben Schiff of MVVAC. On December 6th Magnus finally received his due for his outstanding community activism.
Before September 11th, Emigrant Savings Bank had already seemed interested in making Magnus one of their finalists. The attacks on the World Trade Center only magnified Magnus’s chances.
Shortly after the first strike on the World Trade Center, Magnus and members of MVVAC, dropped what they were doing and rushed downtown. Arriving before the trade center collapsed Magnus and his men were ready to head into the unknown, but just as they thought things couldn’t get worse they did. With the collapse of both towers, Magnus and his crew tried to save as many lives as possible. “We were putting as many people as we could on the ambulance, just so we could get them out of there.” Magnus gets emotional every time he tells the story. Standing near Ground Zero Magnus can’t help but say, “look what they did to our city.”
Standing at a podium inside City Hall, Magnus thanked his crew, his wife Margaret, and his daughter Tonya. He also thanked Emigrant Savings Bank whom he says gave him his first bank account when he came to the U.S. when other banks were turning him down. “I’ll never forget what they did for me, and I know that I’m now winning an award for having an account, but for the service I have provided for my community.” As he left the podium Magnus raised his clenched fist and bellowed, “God Bless America.”
The $5,000 will help out MVVAC a great deal. After September 11th, MVVAC lost a lot of equipment and materials. “This will help us a great deal,” Magnus said.
Magnus has always remained modest, even with the honor. For him being a member of MVVAC is an honor in itself. He has shaped the Volunteer service into what it is today. He has maintained the identity of MVVAC. When you think of the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corp., you think of Joseph Magnus. When you think of Magnus you remember his nickname, “Mr. Ambulance.” He is proud of the label put on him, but even more so he recognizes that it represents his service to a community he has been a part of for most of his life.
For someone who has come from another country, and still bears a heavy accent, Magnus always claims that he is an American first.