U.S. Coast Guard Honors Riverview Resident


The Tampa Tribune
Published: April 30, 2008
RIVERVIEW - It did not take much to convince Joe Lori to join the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary when he first came in contact with the organization nearly 20 years ago.
"I had been in the Army for about eight years, and one day I just decided to attend one of their meetings," Rodriguez said. "I really enjoyed the camaraderie, and I was hooked right from the get-go."
The auxiliary is a nonprofit volunteer organization with more than 28,000 members who perform services such as harbor patrols, search and rescue, and marine environmental protection.
Lori and his wife, Kay, are members of the 7th Division, District 7, which covers the Tampa Bay area and Pinellas County.
On March 29, during the district's annual awards luncheon at the Colonnade in south Tampa, Lori received the highest civilian honor issued by the U.S. Coast Guard - the Coast Guard Auxiliary Meritorious Service Medal.
"I was in a complete state of shock," said Lori, who was not aware he would be receiving the award at the luncheon. "I didn't even know how to feel."
Lori, 72, was cited for his work in enhancing and expanding the auxiliary's personal watercraft programs.
He joined the auxiliary in 1989 and quickly got involved in as many areas as he could.
"They let you pick qualifications when you join, and he wanted to become qualified in every aspect possible - land, sea, air," Kay Lori said. "He's a bit of a show-off."
One of those aspects included personal watercrafts, which did not have the best reputation.
"Back then, they were frowned upon by the Coast Guard and frowned upon by me," Lori said. "They had a reputation of being something for kids to use when they want to hot dog it out in the water."
Nevertheless, he became adept with personal watercrafts and began the Coast Guard auxiliary's program in 1996.
Having trained in Georgia, California and North Carolina, Lori said he took the best part of everything he learned and molded it into his own training program.
For the first seven years, only auxiliary members were trained in personal watercraft. Since then, members of the Coast Guard and other law enforcement groups have also adopted it.
He remembers receiving a call from the Marion County Sheriff's Office a few years ago, requesting his services.
"They said they would make reservations for me, and I told them that wouldn't be necessary since I could just drive up there myself," said Lori, who assumed he was being contacted from Marion County, Florida. "They told me Marion County was in Indiana.
"I didn't want to train in the cold waters in April in Indiana, so they arranged to have their people flown down here."
In March 2001, Lori was contacted by the U.S. Army's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department. The crafts were being added to the recreational program and needed an instructor.
"I was very surprised and very honored," said Lori, who was more surprised to learn the training would take place in Kuwait.
Three days later, he was on his way to Kuwait.
He remains active in the auxiliary and is grateful for his latest honor.
"I've been lucky enough to receive awards and recognition before, but this one means the most to me," Lori said.
Reporter John Ceballos can be reached at (813) 865-1555 or jceballos@tampatrib.com.