ELKHART — After 28 years of service to the Elkhart Fire Department and the community, Vito Palumbo has been granted a disability retirement.
Elkhart Fire Chief Mike Compton made the announcement Wednesday morning at the board of public safety meeting, adding Palumbo can petition to the state to come back to service any time if he's fully recovered.
The former fire department captain is still recovering from brain injuries after he was struck by an SUV near Memorial Hospital in South Bend on Aug. 25, 2011.
Compton reported on Palumbo's status, saying he is well, after seeing him May 5.
“He's working on other skill sets and he's going through physical therapy at a rigorous level,” Compton told members of the board. “He's out running every day. He's in good shape.”
Andy Jones, vice chairman of the board of public works, said during the meeting he hoped for Palumbo's return.
“I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we see Vito back on the fire service.”
Palumbo's wife, Sue, said after eight months of rehabilitation, Vito is working to go back to the life he was used to.
“He's happy, he really wants to get back to work and he has therapy to go through but he is doing great,” she said.
Palumbo will have a surgery on his shoulder in the next few weeks to enhance his arm function. Palumbo is finishing with patient rehabilitation and will proceed with occupational and vocational rehabilitation.
“Every day he gets better and, just like the doctor said, it just takes time,” Sue Palumbo said. “He's eight months out and he has done terrific.”
Sue said Vito's goal is to go back to work in the fire department. Vito has gone back to doing some of the activities he was used to doing.
“He's back to cooking, he's back to doing the yard work,” she said. “His goal is to get stronger and sharper mentally so he can do his job.”
The Elkhart fire department is going through the process of appointing a new captain for Station Three, located on West Mishawaka Road, where Palumbo used to work. Compton said the department is likely to announce a new captain by the end of June.
However, Compton said the fire department is hoping for Palumbo to fully recover and join the station.
“He was a great asset to the fire department,” he said. “He is fantastic, charismatic, he's a great person, a great caregiver. We still hope for his return.”