Over the course of three decades, visitors to Los Padres National Forest were often greeted by Joe Pasinato.
In many respects, he was the face of the U.S. Forest Service. He knew the forest like the back of his hand, and offered advice on camping and hiking spots that enriched many visitors’ experiences. During fire emergencies, Joe answered calls at the forest’s information center and worked with television, radio and print reporters to keep the public apprised of the firefight. Following a 28-year career, Joe retired on March 31, 2012.
The forest was devastated by the recent news of Joe’s death Feb. 16 in Santa Barbara. He was 63.
Joseph Francis Pasinato Jr., was born and raised on Santa Barbara’s Eastside, the only child of Joseph and Beatrice Pasinato. Joe attended Santa Barbara Junior and Senior high schools, and went on to study computer programming at Santa Barbara City College.
Following school, Joe worked as a grocery clerk, an auto mechanic, a ranch hand and a horse wrangler before going to work for Los Padres National Forest as a radio dispatcher in 1984. When this temporary job ended, Joe transitioned into a permanent position in the Forest Supervisor’s Office.
Joe became an integral part of the daily operations: working as the front desk receptionist, assisting with the dissemination of fire information to the public and news media, and managing the mailroom. As part of Joe’s early job description, he even had responsibility for performing routine maintenance on government vehicles such as oil changes and ensuring the fleet was in working order.
Joe volunteered for a variety of challenging assignments above and beyond his daily responsibilities. During the peak visitor season, he enjoyed patrolling the forest, assisting the recreating public and helping with fire prevention. One of his favorite assignments was working at the Santa Barbara Airport’s Air Tanker Base during fire season.
Joe took great pride in his work. Co-workers fondly remember the dedication and commitment he demonstrated in every one of his assignments. He gladly set aside whatever he was doing to assist a fellow employee or friend in need. His reputation throughout the Santa Barbara community earned the respect of cooperating agencies that could always rely on Joe whenever questions or issues arose.
Toward the end of his career, Joe had the chance to utilize his college computer programming knowledge when he assumed the duties of forest web manager. Joe embraced this new challenge with his customary enthusiasm and worked to improve the content of the forest webpages.
An overflowing crowd packed a Buellton restaurant in April 2012 for Joe’s retirement celebration. The Forest Service presented Joe with the traditional farewell gifts, while co-workers and friends bestowed so many plaques, hats and other tokens of appreciation on him that his truck couldn’t hold them all. It was truly a special moment honoring Joe’s remarkable career. Joe sent a farewell email on his last day in the Forest Service, sharing one final message with his colleagues.
A portion of that note read: “Dear friends — I have made the decision to retire from the Forest Service March 31, 2012. I can honestly say that the 28 years I have been with the Forest Service have been the most personally rewarding years of my professional life. The many different assignments I have had, including radio dispatcher, recreation technician, fire information officer and, last but not least, forest webmaster, were all very special to me and will live on in my memory forever.
“There have been so many of you that have touched my life, and I want to thank you for your support, hard work, the good and the bad times, and most of all your friendship. I am ready to move forward with the next chapter of my life and have many things in mind, including traveling to faraway places. Now I will have the time to investigate and partake in new experiences. I have not decided yet whether to stay in the local area or move to any one of the beautiful places on this planet. I am sure that many of our paths will continue to cross in the future, but for the time being, I bid you farewell.”
A public memorial service for Joe is tentatively scheduled for early May in Santa Barbara.