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Metro-Dade, FL Local 1403 members say it’s difficult to surprise 12th District Vice President Emeritus and retired Local 1403 member Dominick Barbera. But, with a little luck, they found a way to do it, just in time for Barbera’s 84th birthday.

“As Local 1403 leaders were planning the last union meeting, a retired member called to say he had found what he believed was Barbera’s old helmet and wanted to give it back to him,” explains 12th District Vice President Walt Dix. “With his birthday coming it, it was perfect timing.”

Like many IAFF active and retired members, retired Local 1403 member Mitch Perilstein collects fire fighter memorabilia. When he found an eBay seller offering a collection of fire helmets found in storage, Perilstein bought the helmets, not expecting to find the helmet of someone he knew.

After the package arrived, Perilstein got a closer look at the helmets. One had Dominick Barbera’s name written inside in what appeared to be Barbera’s own handwriting.

Meanwhile, as Metro-Dade Local 1403 was planning its final membership meeting for the year, during which it planned to recognize District Vice President Emeritus Barbera’s birthday. Perilstein drove three hours to deliver the helmet as a gift.

“When District Vice President Emeritus Barbera opened the box, he told us it was the helmet he received in 1972 when he was promoted to lieutenant. He had turned in the helmet in 1980 and had not seen it since,” says Local 1403 President Omar Blanco. “He was very surprised.”