Bob Wisniewski heard the whistle of the train. He tried to stop as his car slid on ice toward the tracks.
After the train demolished his car, he was trapped inside and feared the vehicle would burst into flames. As the thoughts of getting out were racing through his mind, he thought he was spitting out his teeth, but it was actually glass from the windshield.
“As I looked out, the firemen were running over to help. They were able to force the door open and get me out,” the Fenton resident said. “The firemen came to my rescue.
"I have always had that in the back of my mind to help others when they are in need.”
The horrific train collision occurred in 1963 and since then, Wisniewski has spent countless hours giving back to others knowing he received help in his greatest time of need.
“I do all of the volunteer work because there are different depths of hurt out there and I’m not unique by myself,” he said.
Wisniewski, 70, hands out Uncle Ray’s ice cream during the Fenton Freedom Festival parades. He collects donations and gives away Tootsie Rolls for the Knights of Columbus, a group he has been volunteering with for more 30 years.
And while Wisniewski is lucky to have survived the train crash -- and prostate cancer -- there are also people who may be alive because of him. He has donated 185 pints of blood to the Red Cross -- enough to save at least 500 lives.
“Bob is very kind and giving. He does anything to help and when called upon to help, he doesn’t hesitate to go,” said longtime friend Ray Dagenais.
Wisniewski earned a living at General Motors Flint V-8 Engine Plant as a tool and die maker for 31 years, but he has lived a life by helping others.
Wisniewski’s 30 years of volunteer hours through the Knights of Columbus have contributed to donations raised for area charities and schools.
He has helped to renovate the Linden airport and participated in the Wings and Wheels of Mercy, numerous pancake breakfasts and bingo nights. Wisniewski also been a longtime volunteer at the St. John’s Applefest.
“Bob has always been giving of his time,” friend Randy Lau said. “He always puts other people first.”
Wisniewski has been married to his wife, Judy, for 50 years. They have worked together volunteering in the community by delivering food and providing services through the St. Vincent DePaul food bank.
They also spent years volunteering with the Marriage Encounter and planned retreat weekends for couples on the verge of divorce.
“We got to see a lot of different levels of commitment but the best part was seeing couples come back together,” said Wisniewski.
Wisniewski’s daughter Wendy said her father's life has been a work of art depicting a story of faith through his continuous acts of service to the community and those around him.
“He lives his life full of faith, with a positive attitude and always gives to his community,” she said.
You can read about more Hometown Heroes on Fenton Patch.