Fired up on life—John and Pat Horr

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Granby Fire Chief John Horr and his wife Pat, vice president of the firefighters’ auxiliary, are devoted to public service and family. Photo by Nicole Muller

In the fall of 1982, while John Horr was studying electrical engineering at the University of Hartford, he met Pat Zavisza in an emergency response technician (EMT) class. Forty-one years later, the couple has two grown children, a young granddaughter, a passion for off-road vehicles—and a profound but quiet impact on the Granby community.

“We had our first official date on October 31,” says John, who married the petite emergency medical technician from Suffield three years later. They settled in Granby, the town that had been John’s home since he was a first grader at Wells Road School.

After witnessing a rollover accident at age 17, John became devoted to helping others. “I pulled up as the dust was settling,” he recalls. “The driver was pushed up under the rear window, and I was frustrated by not knowing how to help him.”

When he turned the mandatory age 18, John started fire training and joined the Lost Acres Fire Department in June 1981. The following year, he became a volunteer ambulance driver, serving as a driver and EMT for 13 years.

An EMT in her home town of Suffield, Pat worked for a customs broker and an insurance company until 1996, when she became a full-time mom. For the past 18 years, she has served as tax clerk in Granby. A longtime member of the firefighters’ auxiliary, she is currently vice president. The auxiliary’s popular rummage sale fundraiser, which COVID placed on hold, will not be offered this year, but Pat hopes to see it return when active membership in the auxiliary resumes. On April 2 the popular Bunny Run, a combined effort of firefighters and the auxiliary conceived during COVID to brighten community spirit, again brought its special magic to the streets of Granby.

While working for more than four decades at Collins Aerospace in Windsor Locks, John has served Granby 42 years as a firefighter, 15 as chief. Over that time, he estimates leaving work about 15 times to respond to a fire. He keeps his gear in his truck, and meets the crew, tankers, and pumpers at the scene. He also serves as a weekend dispatcher, a job he did years ago in Simsbury while earning a master’s in business administration from the University of Connecticut.

The Horrs’ daughter Rachel, who lives in Hopkinton, N.H., and son Justin, now residing in Plymouth, Mass., and their spouses enjoy riding all-terrain vehicles with John and Pat, a pastime that brings the family together. “We started riding ATVs in 2000,” says John, who grew up riding dirt bikes and motorcycles. In 2012, the family started riding in New Hampshire, where a network of trails is designated for riders. Over the years they have ridden trails in other states, including Michigan, West Virginia, and Florida, averaging 1,000 miles a year!

“Our family has never had an accident,” Pat says. “We are very cautious, we dress for it, wear helmets, bring safety equipment.” The attraction, the Horrs agree, is the adventure and riding with people they love.

“We experience an array of wildlife, and when we drive deep into an evergreen forest, the scent is intoxicating,” Pat explains. “We can drive to remote places in minutes that it would take hours to get to on foot.”

Still, their home, their friends and their devotion remain in Granby, where they return refreshed and ready to serve—and where 12-year-old Cleo, their calico cat, greets them with a resounding purr.