When You Need a Hero, The Closics Step Up

The Closics dance at their 1966 wedding. (Provided)

When trouble arises, Joe Closic is the guy you want to have around. A 50-year veteran of the Wisp Mountain ski patrol and “new” — only 10 to 12 years, he says — paramedic with Pikesville’s Volunteer Fire Department, Joe steps up. He always has.

In 1964, he volunteered to step up when a coworker named Susan, working alongside him in Sinai Hospital’s radiology department, needed a date.

Joe was an X-ray tech in the emergency room and operating room, which were part of Susan’s rotation as a student. “The guy I was dating went to California for a job offer,” Susan remembered. “I wasn’t quite sure about our relationship. I happened to be working in the ER at the time and asked Joe if he knew anyone to fix me up with. He said, ‘How about if I take you out?’”

This was “150 years ago,” Joe quipped. Or, Susan recalled with slightly more precision, “1964.” She added, “I was kind of taken aback but I went out with him.”

Joe took Susan to play pool at the Pikesville Bowling Alley, and the romance continued, albeit with some teasing from Joe at work.

“He used to say, ‘I’ve got someone to fix you up with in bed three.’ And it would be some drunk guy in a stretcher,” Susan laughed.

Susan and Joe dated for less than a year before Joe proposed, and they married less than a year after that. “The whole thing was a year and a half,” said Susan. Long enough, said Joe “to make sure her mother could make kugel.”

On Thanksgiving Day 1966, Joe and Susan married at Ner Tamid Greenspring Valley Synagogue, not far from where they live now. The two honeymooned in Puerto Rico, and last month they returned to the island on a Caribbean cruise for the first time since then.

In addition to traveling, “skiing has been a big part of our life,” Susan said. Joe has been a member of Wisp Mountain ski patrol for 50 years, and he isn’t the only family member there. Their daughter, Lauren, 45, also volunteers as a Wisp ski patrol member when she’s not running her CrossFit and personal training gym, Arenal Fitness, at Quarry Lake. Their son, Jason, 48, is a level 3 ski instructor in Aspen. Their grandson, Ethan, who just turned 15, is following in his mother’s and grandfather’s footsteps at Wisp, recently joining the Young Adult Patrol program of the National Ski Patrol.

Susan is the only family member who doesn’t patrol or teach: “I’m a fair-weather skier,” she laughed.

Joe said ski patrol requires two or more seasons of training “to hone you into a fully functioning member” of the team. Most of his rescuees suffer sprains, strains and broken bones, but “every once in a while you have to really step up to the plate and know what you’re doing. That’s why training is so rigorous. We train out in the weather, in all kinds of snow conditions. We train on all parts of the mountain. We have to be fully capable to do everything necessary to get a person to EMS services, which are generally in the parking lot.”

Susan isn’t worried when Joe goes out on calls. “It’s not that big a mountain,” she said. And the ski patrol community is “a tight-knit group. Everyone looks out for each other.”

Given his experience on the mountain, Joe thought he’d bring his volunteer work closer to home, too. “I went back to school,” he said. Before retiring three years ago, Joe was an entrepreneur, and for a time was a partner at a bowling alley. He was 64 when he got his paramedic license.

But Joe isn’t the only hero in the family. When Susan’s sister Carol got cancer, Susan donated her bone marrow when she found out the two were a perfect match. Carol is doing well 22 years later.

Susan said she loves Joe’s sense of humor. Joe said he loves that his spouse “has the ability to keep my brain straight.”

Fifty-two years of marriage have taught Susan and Joe some lessons. Susan said Joe, with his volunteering and many interests, is independent, but his independence doesn’t lessen their family cohesion.

The two enjoy spending family time in their Deep Creek condo, and also skiing out West. “Utah’s probably best,” Susan opined. “But Europe is a totally different experience.”

Susan said she would advise someone who was newly married to “be tolerant of each other’s quirks.”

And, said Joe, “Don’t be afraid of being an individual.”

Erica Rimlinger is a local freelance writer.

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